A national group which aims to protect badgers from persecution has a new lead from North Yorkshire.
Inspector Kevin Kelly, of North Yorkshire Police, has taken on the high-profile role in the Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group, part of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU).
As plan owner, Insp Kelly will lead the group’s work to improve and increase the recording of incidents, crimes and intelligence for badger persecution, improve the investigation process and increase awareness of badger persecution across the UK.
Badger persecution is one of six national wildlife crime priorities. The term covers the cruel practice of badger baiting, as well as the avoidable disturbance or destruction of setts which can occur when people carry out otherwise legal operations on land, such as forestry or agricultural tasks.
Insp Kelly was named Wildlife Enforcer of the Year, a national award, in November 2017, and in December 2018 won a national commendation from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for Operation Owl, a rural crime operation aimed at tackling raptor persecution through partnership working.
Inspector Kelly is operational lead for wildlife crime at North Yorkshire Police, leading a team of 41 Wildlife Crime Officers across the force.
Insp Kelly said:
It’s a great responsibility to take over as plan owner for the Badger Persecution Priority Delivery Group. Let me be clear from the start that I’m here to make a difference. I want to encourage partnership working, which is something I have a real belief in.
Since 2013 there have been more than 30 convictions for badger crime in the UK, which just goes to show the hard work already going on nationwide in this area, and I’d like to pay tribute to all those involved in the delivery group over that time.
The police and our partner organisations have been doing some fantastic work already, increasing awareness of badger persecution, and improving the way this crime has been dealt with. However, there is much more to do. I’m confident by continuing to work closely together, we can do even more to protect these wonderful mammals.
Here in North Yorkshire, we are leading the way in improving how wildlife crimes like badger persecution are dealt with. In recent years we have had some high-profile convictions for badger persecution, including in February 2019, a man who failed to check a snare which led to a badger death, and in May 2018, a man who carried out forestry work at an active badger sett.
In January this year, five men were each jailed for six months after using dogs to attack a sett in East Yorkshire.
Insp Kelly added:
Badger baiting involves the digging out and killing of badgers in their sets. Both the dogs and the badgers suffer severe, often fatal, injuries. It’s a barbaric crime – there’s no other word for it. There’s no place for this crime in our country, and I’m determined to put a stop to it. By working together with partners, and encouraging people to report these crimes, we can do just that.
We also need to continue to raise awareness about sett disturbance, often as a result of forestry or agricultural work. Many of the incidents we deal with could have been avoided if the people involved sought the right advice at an early stage. There are a wide variety of organisations that can offer that advice, to avoid developers ending up facing a criminal investigation.
The main role of the NWCU is to assist in the prevention and detection of wildlife crime. The unit does this by obtaining and disseminating information from a wide range of organisations and by assisting police forces in wildlife crime investigation.