As I approach the end of my first six months as Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) I thought it timely to blog an update of the work I have completed so far. When I took up the role of Chair I gave my commitment to openness and transparency and will continue to do that through this blog. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to get in contact directly by email or phone, I have enjoyed many conversations with people offering support, feedback and the benefit of their experience.
Having responded to a national advert for a new Chair and having been successfully selected, I started my tenure in handover September 2018 with a journey to Greater Manchester to receive a briefing from the previous Chair, prior to his retirement from Policing. This was closely followed by a meeting with the Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) and DEFRA to further develop my understanding of the group and the issues that needed my immediate attention.
In my first of many visits to Yorkshire (I have yet to see the Sun) I spent a cold September day with the Moorland Association and staff on the Bolton Abbey Estate, learning about Driven Grouse Shooting and Land Management. I spent most of October reading and digesting a wealth of information so as to be much better informed, spending many an evening and weekend talking to people, asking a thousand silly questions I am sure.
My second visit to Yorkshire, in November, was to attend my first National Wildlife Crime Tasking & Coordination Meeting and spent some more time with keepers and the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force. With some great support, in November I held the first ever National Workshop (A New Beginning……) aimed at identifying work streams that could be taken on by RPPDG members to tackle head-on the persecution issue. A full on day spent in London, interrupted by a protest outside the building, the outcome of which was a lengthy list of ideas that I would later distil down into the groups Delivery Plan.
Raising awareness of the size and scale of the persecution issue within Policing was another early priority for me, writing articles for well-respected policing publications including Police Professional and Policing Insight. I also secured support from North Yorkshire Police to utilise the `Operation Owl` brand for a widespread awareness campaign (more to follow). I closed out 2018 with a series of meetings and calls with key RPPDG partners.
January saw me Chair my first RPPDG meeting in London (In the hot seat…..) and was closely followed by media interviews with The Times and The Shooting Times. The Tactical Delivery Plan feedback and revisions continued, while work commenced on some of the early actions, including seeking support from the National Police Wildlife Crime Officer network for my new National Enforcement Group.
February saw me being invited to attend the Scottish Raptor Study Group Annual Conference being held at Scottish National Heritage, Battleby. Two long 7 hour drives bookended a really insightful event, where I was able to discuss at length the persecution issue with Members of Scottish Parliament and spend time with so many people that dedicate their lives to monitoring and safeguarding our raptors. My favourite presentation of the day had to be the update on the Southern Scotland Golden Eagles. I have already been invited to attend next year’s event, and look forward to taking my coat north of the border again.
At the end of February and into early March I was able to secure the support of North Yorkshire Police, RSPB, NWCU and Natural England in the planning of a national training event for Wildlife Crime Officers. The event, scheduled for the 11th June, will focus on investigation of raptor persecution offences, forensic techniques and the management of sat tag data.
On the 5th March I was again in North Yorkshire (getting cold and wet) on a visit to the Nidderdale AONB with the NYP Rural Task Force. I spent the day understanding the partnership work going on in the area to tackle persecution offences, meeting with key individuals to broaden my own understanding, allowing me to better focus my efforts. I even broke my hen harrier `duck` during this visit.
Over the next few weeks I travel to Wales to attend the `All Wales Rural Crime Conference` and head back to North Yorkshire to Chair my 2nd RPPDG Meeting. I will continue to keep you all updated through this blog, I hope you continue to welcome and value this insight.
Photo credit- RSPB