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Force criticised as call-handlers allegedly told wildlife crime not police matter

Force says it will review policy after charity claims it is ‘not interested’ in wildlife crime

A police force has been criticised by an animal protection group after the region’s call-handlers allegedly told people wildlife crime was not a police matter.

Liz Ballard, head of the wildlife charity Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, said South Yorkshire Police was not “interested” in wildlife crime.

She made the claims at a high-levelled meeting which sought to gain a clearer understanding of the force’s approach to wildlife crime, which involved top policing officials and the MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge, Angela Smith.

Also attending the meeting was Mark Thomas, head of investigations at the conservation charity, RSPB and Supt Nick Lyall, chairman of the Raptor Persecution Group for the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Raising her concerns of the force’s wildlife policing strategy, Ms Ballard said: “I cited some examples such as 101 responders not knowing who the Wildlife Crime Officer was, or saying a wildlife crime was nothing to do with the police. 

“Mark Thomas also raised the lack of progress in relation to several reported local wildlife crime incidents on the moors, even when evidence had been presented to them.”

She highlighted an incident in which a raven was poisoned with the banned substance Aldicarb, which is “highly toxic” to birds and human health. Police failed to follow this up, Ms Ballard says.  

The force agreed to review their approach and examine the cases raised.

South Yorkshire Police told Police Oracle it agreed changes should be made to the way it prevents and also tackles wildlife crimes in the future.

Mark James, chief inspector for the force, said:  “I welcome the letter received from Liz Ballard and Mark Thomas at the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust. I understand the concerns which have been raised and agree that there are changes we can implement in order prevent and tackle wildlife crime more effectively. 

“The force takes all complaints of crime affecting wildlife seriously, and we are now taking active steps to address the agreed actions. Our continued reinvestment in community policing will be a key factor in enabling us to take these points forward.
“I will respond directly to the trust to discuss our progress on the actions.”

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