New Consultation Aims to Modernise Wildlife Law

New Consultation Aims to Modernise Wildlife Law

A consultation led by the Law Commission seeking views on how wildlife law should be modernised and simplified has opened today.

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The result is a legal landscape that is out of date, confused and often contradictory.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 being put forward by the Law Commission 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.

Frances Patterson QC, the Law Commission leading the project, said: “The law must take into account the competing interests of all parties. With this project, we are seeking to achieve a balance between the needs of those people who want to manage wildlife and those who want to protect it.

“What we are proposing does not alter the levels of protection currently offered to wildlife but it will help people understand what their obligations and duties are and what they can and cannot do, and ensure they are properly licensed to do it”.

The consultation paper is available on the Law Commission’s website. Closing date: 30 November 2012

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