Poachers arrested in Devon

Five people have been arrested as part of a two-and-a-half year wildlife crime operation in North Devon. 

Two men aged 37 and 42 have been arrested for poaching offences and bailed until the 9 March.

A further two men, aged 19 and 57, and a 53-year-old woman have been arrested in connection with firearms offences and have been bailed until 18 March.

Using Trading Standards and Food Safety powers, along with a number of warrants obtained under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, business and residential properties were searched by Avon & Somerset and Devon & Cornwall officers as part of investigations into alleged offences surrounding poaching and the illegal supply of meat into the food chain. Meat samples will be tested to establish the species of the products on sale and the type of weapon used to kill these animals.

Sgt Andy Whysall, from Avon & Somerset Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “These are not victimless crimes; landowners lose out and, ultimately, the public are potentially at risk from food that isn’t checked and tested by the usual food standards. I would like to thank all the agencies involved in making sure that such a response to this issue was possible.”

Roger Bartlett, sector inspector for North Devon including Exmoor, said: “With the work officers have been doing for a long time, I get a clear sense of the threats, fear and intimidation many people living in our rural and more isolated communities face from those involved – much of which is not reported.

“I hope this operation shows to local communities that we are serious about targeting local poachers and that it will give people the confidence to report their concerns to us, knowing that we will listen and act.”

Chief Inspector Martin Sims, head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “Poaching is one of the country’s national wildlife priorities and operations such as this can only happen by all parties working together. The dedication shown by those involved to deal with this matter needs to be commended. It has taken a lot of hard work over a long period of time to get to this point and, without their commitment and enthusiasm to deal with these individuals, this operation would not have taken place.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for community and environmental services, with responsibility for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards, said: “Poaching is no longer always about a lone poacher taking something home for their larder, but an organised criminal operation where deer, fish and livestock are taken and often sold on for it to end up in restaurants, hotels or with meat suppliers.

“These people are in it for financial gain, and linked to other types of criminality. There have been instances of poachers trespassing and then shooting or using dogs to take deer and threaten landowners.

“With agencies working together we hope to be able to look beyond where the police have traditionally looked to combat poaching.”

For more on meat safety, check out this Friday’s issue of MTJ!

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