South Yorkshire police commit to improved responses to wildlife crime

Last month we blogged about how Stephen Watson, the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, had come under increasing pressure to improve his Force’s responses to reports of wildlife crime in the region following a number of failures to deal with raptor persecution incidents including the poisoning and shooting of protected species.

[Peregrine photo by Bertie Gregory]

Criticism of the Force’s approach to wildlife crime had come from various groups including the Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust and the RSPB, supported by Supt Nick Lyall, Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group.

There was a meeting between all parties in July 2019 which offered an opportunity for a frank exchange of views and Chief Constable Watson was told of the perception that South Yorkshire Police ‘are not interested or active in tackling wildlife crime as there is a conflict of interest between the officers leading on wildlife crime and their personal involvement in the shooting industry‘.

In August Liz Ballard (Chief Exec, Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust) and Mark Thomas (RSPB Investigations) wrote an open letter to Chief Constable Watson to follow up on several action points from the July meeting.

As a result, the Wildlife Trust is reporting a number of ‘encouraging replies’ from Chief Inspector Mark James, South Yorkshire Police’s lead for Wildlife and Rural Crime. Commitments have been made to complete a systems review of wildlife crime reporting and responses, participation in this month’s Operation Owl UK awareness-raising weekend, and an invitation to the Wildlife Trust to attend the South Yorkshire Police wildlife crime conference in October, amongst other things.

Liz Ballard said: “Inevitably, we will only know if the commitments and improvements proposed have had any affect when local people and organisations tell us they feel they are being listened to and getting the right response from the police, and when the statistics show an increase in the reporting of wildlife crime and an appropriate result. The Trusts offers our support to South Yorkshire Police and we hope they will become a leading Force for tackling wildlife crime.”

This appears to be a good response to criticism by South Yorkshire Police – let’s hope they can deliver. Well done Liz Ballard and colleagues, and Mark Thomas and Supt Nick Lyall for holding this police force to account.

5 Responses to “South Yorkshire police commit to improved responses to wildlife crime”

  1. 1 crypticmirror
    September 9, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Are they committing to attempting to give a shit, as an improvement over not even pretending to?

  2. 2 Simon Tucker
    September 9, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    Fine words butter no parsnips: sick of seeing the promises, want to see not just action but results!

  3. 3 Bob Berzins
    September 9, 2019 at 5:51 pm

    I went along with a Labour Councillor to meet South Yorks PCC in mid August and Ch Insp Mark James attended. SYP were reluctant to acknowledge there was any raptor persecution on grouse moors and it was clear there would be no investigation of incidents like the disappearance of Hen Harrier Octavia in Aug 2018. If effective policing is supposed to be intelligence led, there was absolutely no sign of this for wildlife crime in South Yorks. But maybe this meeting and the one you describe have made them realise the public has lost trust in this police force and they do have to take notice of that. Any improvements will be most welcome.

    • September 9, 2019 at 5:53 pm

      Thanks, Bob, for your efforts & for reporting here.

    • 5 GE
      September 10, 2019 at 12:01 pm

      “SYP were reluctant to acknowledge there was any raptor persecution on grouse moors”

      Utterly disgraceful behaviour. In effect, they are in denial of science and reality. How on earth can the public have faith in such an out of touch police department? Did they offer up any rationale behind why they held that view?

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