A ‘landmark’ confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act has been granted against a company who destroyed a bat roost in Matlock.
Hargurdial Singh Rai and his company ISAR Enterprises Limited, both of Birmingham, were convicted by magistrates in Chesterfield in April 2014 of destroying the bat roost in an empty commercial property on Dale Road in 2012.
Shortly after that date, both Mr Rai and his company lodged an appeal against conviction. On Monday, March 7, 2016 the appeals were heard at Derby Crown Court.
The conviction against Mr Rai was quashed and ISAR Enterprises Ltd abandoned its appeal, accepting the conviction.
The hearing then went on to consider a confiscation order under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Order. The act is designed to strip criminals of their ill-gotten gains and is usually used to obtain money from people who have profited from selling stolen goods, or who have been involved in fraud, for example.
On this occasion, it was agreed by both sides that the company benefitted to the sum of £5,737 – the cost the company would have incurred to carry out further surveys and protect the roost.
In passing sentence Judge John Burgess said that the offence in question had not been intentional but was, “at best” negligent. He also fined ISAR Enterprises Ltd £3,000, and ordered them to pay £2,000 costs.
ISAR Enterprises Limited purchased the Matlock premises with the intention of converting it into accommodation. An ecological report produced as part of the planning conditions identified a roost of brown long-eared bats in the loft space of one of the premises.
The ecologist who had produced the report later noticed that the roof of the building that had contained the bat roost had been replaced. As a result, a wildlife crime officer from Derbyshire police and an officer from the National Wildlife Crime Unit visited the scene. They found that the loft space that had contained the roost had been studded, plastered and converted into a new flat. They also found that points of entry to the roost had been filled. The roost had been destroyed.
Wildlife crime officer PC Emerson Buckingham said: “This is a landmark case whereby the Proceeds of Crime Act has been used to recover money the company should have spent protecting the roost.
“All bats are classed as European Protected Species and both the bats and their roosts are fully protected by law. I hope this case shows how seriously we take wildlife crime in Derbyshire and serves to protect roosts in the future by highlighting the consequences of destroying them.
“If anyone has any concerns or suspicions about wildlife crime they should contact their local police on 101.”
Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles said: “Hopefully this outcome will persuade people that those committing crimes against wildlife will be prosecuted and that, if found guilty, their actions can have serious and expensive consequences.
“This landmark case is good news for everyone who respects and values our natural heritage and the wildlife within it. I’m delighted to say that proceeds of crime are now being reinvested into community projects to prevent crime, through my NICE fund.”
Chief Inspector Martin Sims, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit said: “This is a landmark case and we will explore opportunities to use the Proceeds of Crime Act in future cases, people who act outside the law cannot be seen to profit”.