Review of wildlife law


At the request of the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Law Commission is consulting on a review of wildlife protection law. The review aims to simplify the law, which is currently confusing and complicated, with inconsistent provisions over a number of statutes.

The current law regulating wildlife is spread over a collection of Acts dating back to 1831. The original purpose of much of the law was to govern activities such as hunting and fishing, including poaching. Over the years it has expanded to conserve certain species, ensure the welfare of wildlife and protect local biodiversity from invasive species.

The result is a legal landscape that is out of date, confused and often contradictory. For example, the hunting, management and welfare of pheasants is governed by four separate statutes. Much of the older legislation is out of step with modern requirements, and the principal modern Act – the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 – has been amended to such a degree that it is difficult for any non-specialists to use.

The proposals we are putting forward in this consultation aim to simplify the existing complex framework, placing wildlife law into a single statute. The new regime would reduce the current dependency on criminal law, by allowing an appropriate mix of regulatory measures such as guidance, advice and a varied and flexible system of civil sanctions – such as fines and bans.

Full details of the consultation and the Law Commissions proposals for reform of wildlife law con be seen on the Law Commission website. The closing date for responses to the consultation is 30 November 2012.

Header photo: the protected Black Redstart (Jerzy Strzelecki)


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