Compensation of £10,730 ordered under a law normally deployed against drug dealers and hailed as ‘most significant conviction for bat crime ever recorded’
A property developer who destroyed a bat roost has been ordered to pay record compensation under a law usually deployed against drug dealers.
Isar Enterprises was told to pay £10,730 in fines, costs and a confiscation of profits order after it failed to obtain the legally required licence to remove a roost of brown long-eared bats from offices it was redeveloping in Matlock.
It is the first time that the Proceeds of Crime Act, which seeks to ensure that offenders do not benefit from criminal behaviour, has been used in a case of bat crime. All 17 bat species found breeding in Britain are protected by law and it is an offence to destroy roosts in houses, outbuildings or trees without a licence and professional advice to ensure they are not removed while hibernating or rearing young.
The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT), which each year reports to the police more than 120 cases of bat roosts being illegally destroyed, hailed the verdict as “the most significant conviction for bat crime ever recorded”.
“Up until now, the fines seldom exceeded the financial gain from not following the law,” said Peter Charleston, investigations officer for the BCT. In this case, however, the fines are greater than the additional cost if the developer had abided by the law and removed the bats in a lawful way.
According to Charleston, the case sets a precedent by establishing bigger fines for destroying bats and the use of the Proceeds of Crime Act to ensure that penalties are greater than any financial gain. “This case is going to be used in the future to inform decisions by the police, the crown prosecution service and the courts,” he said.
He added: “Having bats in your property is unlikely to prevent you doing what you want to do – it’s a case of doing things at the right time and in a manner that doesn’t have detrimental impact on the bats. Offending is avoidable but if you choose to ignore the issues and commit criminal offences you need to be aware that it is something that the police will take seriously.”
Judge John Burgess told Derby crown court that the offence had not been intentional but was, “at best” negligent and fined Isar Enterprises £3,000, with £2,000 costs and a proceeds of crime order of £5,730. An additional conviction for the Birmingham-based company director Hargudial Singh Rai was quashed by the judge.
Charleston, a former police officer specialising in wildlife crimes, praised the Wildlife Crime Unit – recently reprieved from funding cuts by the government – for its involvement in the case. “Having them around to assist investigating officers is a godsend. We’re very pleased and relieved that the unit has now received funding for the next four years.”