Criminal enforcement earmarked for invasive species regulation

Defra and the Welsh Government have set out more detail on how they intend to enforce through penalties the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation, which currently applies restrictions on 49 invasive non-native species of most concern in Europe. Last week they published a summary of responses (eight of which were from water companies) to their April consultation and their response.

The key messages were:

  • Use of existing regulatory frameworks – where current UK legislation already covers restrictions in the regulation, they should be utilised where it makes sense to do so. The governments however acknowledge that there may be a need to amend current legalisation, or to implement a new framework to improve the consistency of enforcement.

  • The proposed civil penalties regime – 82% of respondents agreed to the proposed regime, or wanted fines to be higher. The governments intend to implement the proposed civil penalty scheme and to further explore the possibility of larger fines for persistent offenders, or for cases where the environment has been heavily impacted. They intend to develop guidance for enforcement officers, so that a more consistent approach in England and Wales can be developed.

  • The proposed criminal enforcement regimes – the governments will look into the feasibility of creating new criminal offences to enforce the Regulation, which will exist alongside the proposed civil sanctions regime. “This would allow for a flexible approach to enforcement, with only severe/persistent breaches being dealt with by use of criminal proceedings…Additionally, we will look to develop detailed guidance for enforcement bodies and the public, in order to prevent any new legislation unduly punishing unintentional/minor breaches.”

  • Penalty levels – 66% of respondents felt that any new penalties should be in line with or higher than penalties already set in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. “The governments want to highlight the serious risk that INNS pose to the environment, as well as the economic burden they place on the UK. Therefore we will take the responses to this consultation into account, and will further review the level of penalties before drafting enforcement legislation.”

DEFRA and the Welsh Government also pledged to further develop their understanding of a number of other points raised in the consultation.