Tuesday 14 August 2012 by Jonathan Rayner
Wildlife law could be modernised to balance the conflicting priorities of managing wildlife for sport with protecting and conserving it under Law Commission proposals published today.
The aim is to simplify the current legal framework, which includes statues dating back to the 1831 Game Act, by placing all wildlife law into a single statute.
Current wildlife law evolved from measures to regulate hunting, fishing and poaching to enforcing conservation and protection against invasive species. The result is a legal landscape that is out of date, confused and often contradictory, the commission reports. For example the hunting, management and welfare of pheasants is governed by four separate statutes while the principal modern act - the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 - has been amended so often that only specialists understand it.
The commission is seeking views on how to place wildlife law into a single statute. The new regime, the Law Commission proposes, should be less dependent on criminal law and instead allow a mix of guidance, advice and civil sanctions, such as fines and bans.
Frances Patterson QC, the law commissioner 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 level 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 closes on 30 November.