I pay tribute to the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and its dedicated professionals who do such important work in protecting animals across the UK. Whilst the unit currently consists of only 12 staff, it is vital that they are able to continue with their excellent work.
The Home Office and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs have both stated that they will continue their funding of the NWCU for 2020-21. This is welcome.
However, the Government has said that longer term funding for the unit will be a matter for the spending review expected later this year. Kit Malthouse, the Minister for Crime and Policing, reiterated this in a recent response to a written question.
Mr Malthouse also implied that the NWCU’s remit will not be extended to cover wildlife crime, as the Government is providing funding for this task to the Police Forces of England and Wales.
I believe that the Government should make the NWCU’s funding permanent, so that its staff don’t have to worry about potentially being out of a job year after year and can concentrate on what they do best.
It is also important that the Government looks at what additional support it can give the NWCU by extending its funding.
More widely, I believe we need to boost the resources the Government provides to tackle wildlife crime. Alongside a new national wildlife crime strategy, we should provide an extra £4.5 million of funding for policing this type of crime. With this, we could nearly double the number of Police Officers tasked with prosecuting wildlife crimes, without reducing allocations to front-line policing elsewhere.
These additional officers would increase the capability of rural crime units to prosecute wildlife crimes and work with regional organised crime units to improve enforcement and prosecution rates. They would enable more effective action against existing crimes and ensure that Police Forces are ready to tackle new forms of wildlife crime as they develop.
I can assure you that I will continue to press the Government to provide proper funding for tackling wildlife crime at every opportunity.