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Modernising wildlife law

The Law Commission has today set out its proposed principles for a new regulatory regime for wildlife.

The Law Commission and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have agreed that the Commission should continue its review of the law relating to wildlife, and make recommendations for its reform. In an interim statement published today, the Commission outlines its initial thinking on the scope and content of the new regime.

The current law regulating the conservation, control, protection and exploitation of wildlife is spread over a collection of Acts dating back to 1829. The principal piece of legislation, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, functions alongside EU Directives on wild birds and habitats. The result is a legal landscape that is out of date, confused and often contradictory.

The aim of the Law Commission’s review is to develop clear, modern and coherent wildlife law, set within a single statute. Following wide consultation, the Commission has identified a number of reforms:

  • Killing and capturing wild birds – bringing the rules into line with EU obligations
  • Wildlife crime – extending criminal liability to the ultimate beneficiaries
  • Sanctions – increasing the availability of penalties for wildlife crime but allowing for a more proportionate response by extending the possibility for civil sanctions
  • Invasive, non-native species – increasing powers to allow public bodies to gain access to land to control invasive, non-native species
  • Keeping the law up to date – requiring the Government to keep wildlife legislation under regular review

Sir David Lloyd Jones, Chairman of the Law Commission, said: “We are pleased that the Government agrees this complex area of law is in need of reform. The benefits of our proposals are clear: reduced burdens on licensing authorities and those seeking and holding licences, ensuring that our EU obligations are met and making the law effective, proportionate and easier to use.

“Our paper sets out what we believe the law should do. We will now turn our attention to refining our thinking and drafting a Bill that would achieve these much-needed reforms.”

The Law Commission expects to publish its final recommendations for the reform of wildlife law and a draft Bill in summer 2014.


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