Rory Stewart, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, has confirmed that the Government is to continue funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit until at least 2020.
The Minister’s statement comes after rumours started that the unit, which helps co-ordinate wildlife related crime investigations, would be abolished as part of Government funding cuts.
Stewart said in the House of Commons:
“Following the Spending Review 2015, Defra and Home Office Ministers have been considering the level of government funding for the National Wildlife Crime Unit beyond March 2016.
In recognition of the important contribution the Unit makes to tackling wildlife crime, both at home and abroad, I can confirm that Defra and Home Office Ministers have agreed that their respective departments will each provide the Unit with funding of £136,000 a year for the next four financial years. This will give the Unit significant financial stability and enable their vital work to continue until at least 2020. Those contributions will be in addition to the funding central Government provides to police forces in England and Wales to tackle all types of crime (including wildlife crime).
In addition, Defra will provide the Unit with up to £29,000 a year over the next four years for specific work to tackle wildlife crime conducted online, as a developing area of global criminal activity”.
The League Against Cruel Sports said in a statement:
“Wildlife crime should never be perceived as second class or unimportant, so it’s very good news that the NWCU has been saved, at least for now. The links between cruelty to animals and abuse of people have been made regularly, so we ignore people committing wildlife crime at our peril.
Kudos to Defra and the Home Office for recognising the importance of the NWCU, and we hope the government will back this up by increasing sentencing for those convicted of animal cruelty. If they’re going to invest in police officers to catch these criminals, it makes sense to ensure the punishment fits the crime”.