Wildlife & Hertiage Crime



Wildlife Crime

Birds and animals receive varying degrees of protection depending upon species and this protection is not confined to public places but also within the boundaries of private properties.

So birds must not be disturbed when nesting and their nests cannot be interfered with, a tree or bush in a private garden can not be cut back whilst birds are nesting in it if it disturbs the nesting bird.
Similarly if bats are roosting in the roof space of any building including a private house it is unlawful to attempt to move them or to block the access to their roost.

Wildlife and wildlife habitat must be considered when carrying any type of work on land, so ponds can not simply be filled in as they may contain a protected species like the great crested newt.

There are a number of acts of parliament that protect animals and their habitat so in many cases a survey to assess the impact on wildlife would be required prior to any work starting.

The release into the wild of certain species not native to this country, like grey squirrels or American signal crayfish, is unlawful, as is causing certain plants like Japanese knotweed to spread.

For instance, if a grey squirrel was released back into the wild, after being caught in a trap, this would actually be an offence.


Wildlife crime takes many forms, from people shooting at birds with air guns, stealing wild plants and distrurbing cetaceans (Whales, Dolpins and Porpoises) to more organised crimes of badger baiting and the trade in endangered species and their by products, ivory, rhino horn, furs etc. There are around 150 different laws designed to protect wildlife in the UK and many more global controls that the UK has adopted.


The police are responsible for enforcing the law in relation to these offences. Every force having Wildlife Crime Officers who perform this role in addition to normal police work. Wildlife Crime Officers attend a national course and receive specialist training in wildlife law and the investigation of wildlife offences.




Wild Birds

Wild birds are protected by law, primaily by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Birds are still persecuted, as a result, this is having a major impact on our country's wild bird population and many species are in serious decline, and it is likely that if this continues certain species will suffer extinction.

The police are responsible for enforcing the law in respect of :

Killing, injuring, taking, disturbing etc. wild birds.

Taking/possessing/destroying wild birds eggs/nest disturbance.         

Full details of these and other

associated offences can be

found here.

A nest with eggs in



It is estimated that 10,000 badgers are killed illegally every year. Large sums of money are often involved and it is usually the case that those involved in badger baiting are also involved in other serious crime, so the money used is often the proceeds of crime.

Badger digging and baiting is extremely cruel and the badgers suffer severe injuries before they are killed. 

The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 created a number of offences and provides financial and custodial sentences for offenders as well as powers to make banning orders in respect of keeping dogs.                             


Full details of these and other

associated offences can be

found here.



All bats, their breeding sites and resting places are specially protected by the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). Most bats live in trees and buildings where they cause little disturbance and are often undetected, only usually being seen when they are on the wing in the evening.  All bats native to the UK eat insects. Each species has its favourite insects, hunting them in its own special way.

Bats are in decline in Britain and Europe: there are now 16 species of bat left in the UK some of which are extremely rare - the 17th species is thought to have become extinct in 2005.

The legislation prohibits killing, injuring, taking or disturbing of wild bats

Buildings - Under Regulation 41 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010,  it is an offence to damage or destroy a breeding site or resting place of a European Protected Species of animal, which includes all bats.  This is an offence of strict liability, which means that there does not have to be evidence of any intent or even recklessness – if the breeding site or resting place is damaged or destroyed, the offence is complete.

Bat Conservation Trust http://www.bats.org.uk/


Wild Plants

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended, it is an offence to intentionally uproot any wild plant without the permission of the owner of the land on which the plant is growing. Uprooting is defined as 'digging up or otherwise removing the plant from the land on which it is actually growing'. 

This includes algae, lichens, fungi, mosses, liverworts and vascular or flowering plants.

It can also be an offence to introduce seeds or mature plants of certain species that are 'alien' to this country. These plants can be invasive and can take over from native species.  In some cases, e.g. Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantagazzianum) can be injurious to humans and animals.

In the case of some rare species it is also an offence to pick the plants, or to sell them. The list of protected plants listed can be found at the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website. http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=5

Further information on the UK's plant life can be found at http://www.plantlife.org.uk/ 


Mammals and protected animals 

All British wild mammals are protected from deliberate acts of cruelty under The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996.  This means that it is an offence to inflict unnecessary suffering or deliberately cause harm to any mammal even if it is not killed.

Some of our rarest species of animals have been dramatically reduced in number, either by direct persecution or by loss of habitat, to such an extent that some are threatened with extinction. As a result, species that are in danger have been given special protection by the law.
It is an offence to kill or injure any wild animal listed in Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981, such as Red Squirrels, Bats, Water Voles, Sand Lizards and Natterjack Toads.
It is also an offence intentionally or recklessly to damage or obstruct any place used for their shelter or protection.


Links to other areas of Wildlife Crime

Traps & Snares

Hunting with Dogs

Animal Poisoning






Heritage crime


Heritage crime is any offence which harms the value of heritage assets and their settings. It covers a wide variety of activities that are responsible for damaging assets that are of particular historical interest and includes:

Criminal damage

Unlawful excavation and removal of articles

Architectural theft including metal theft

Unauthorised works and alterations to listed buildings.


 Metal theft 'epidemic one of biggest threat to UK's heritage'


The ARCH (Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage) survey suggests there were around 75,000 crimes in 2011/12, affecting designated historic buildings and sites.

The theft of valuable materials and artefacts are often planned from designated sites, with unlawful metal detecting (night hawking) a growing concern for landowners.

Most assets are being damaged as a result of Anti Social Behaviour, by people who aren’t aware of the impact their actions are having and the irreversible harm they are causing.

Most crime committed is mainstream such as criminal damage and theft but sites are often isolated so prevention requires a multi agency approach.

More information can be found at http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/