The Law Commission published a new report on Wildlife Law today which includes a draft of the new statute, the Wildlife Bill. The Bill brings together the law governing the protection, control and management of wildlife to make it more consistent. The Bill amalgamates the law governing the protection, control and management of wildlife aiming to make it easier to understand and simpler to use.
The Bill replaces existing legislation with a single statute. The new statute will reflect relevant EU directives, international conventions and national wildlife policy. It provides a regulatory framework listing protected and controlled species and prohibited conduct.
What the Bill does not do is extend liability to principals through the introduction of a vicarious liability offence. This was done in Scotland through the implementation of the Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 under which an employer can be liable for wild bird offences committed by a person under their control unless the employer can demonstrate that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the offence occurring. This offence was introduced principally to protect grouse and other raptors.
In the same way that the failure to prevent economic crime offence was perceived to deal with those who may be the ultimate beneficiary of the offending, but was shelved (see previous post), a vicarious liability offence would also have a deterrent effect by encouraging employers to take steps to prevent offending through the provision of information, training and the exercise of due diligence. The extension of liability to principals has been dropped following opposition to it in the consultation period from Defra and the hunting industry, although the majority of respondees were in favour of the extension of liability.
The reverse burden was considered to be a step too far and to place too onerous requirements on businesses. The Bill does introduce an offence of to knowingly cause or permit the commission of wildlife offences which it is hoped will achieve the same effect without the reverse burden. Under the knowingly cause or permit offence the prosecution will have to prove that the offence was committed under the authority or control of the employer.