Statements from the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick and the Chief Constable of Dorset Police Scott Chilton
Statement on Wildlife Crime from Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick
In recent days, there has been some misleading commentary and media reporting regarding Dorset Police’s commitment to investigating wildlife crime.
In October 2021, I published my Police and Crime Plan for Dorset. This document sets out a priority to ‘Fight Rural Crime’ and specifically highlights wildlife crime as a key theme, with a commitment to increase awareness of wildlife offences and support schemes that are proven to reduce incidents. It also sets out to ensure that the police have the specialist knowledge to deal with wildlife crime and that there should be an increase in analysis and liaison across the region to tackle any organised criminality associated to wildlife crime.
My strategic intention is and has always been to reduce wildlife and rural crime. To achieve this, it is vital that anyone affected by rural crime – including wildlife crime – has the confidence that the police will treat such issues seriously. For this reason, I feel it necessary to set the record straight.
Let me be clear crystal clear.
Since becoming Police and Crime Commissioner, rural crime has been a priority for me and I have intentionally made available the resources for the Chief Constable to invest further in the Rural Crime Team, so much so, that their number has more than doubled – putting more boots on the ground exactly where they are needed - in our rural communities.
Further, it is a plain and simple fact that the Team continues to do what they have always done, which is to tackle all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime in Dorset and they have my unwavering support in the work they do, day in day out, for our rural communities.
With regard to the tragic death of the sea eagle, I clearly publicly supported the Rural Crime Team in their decision to carry out a full and thorough police investigation – this was contrary to the position that was first expressed by the MP for West Dorset and I have continued to support such investigations taking place. The suggestion that this investigation was somehow politically impeded is therefore bizarre and entirely without merit.
Politicians, including myself as PCC, are not able to ‘direct or drop’ investigations – the police are operationally independent and have to be so, in order to uphold the law.
I acknowledge that there have been differing opinions regarding the sea eagle investigation, however, once again, let me state quite clearly, that the Dorset Police Rural Crime Team have my full and unwavering support in their efforts to investigate potential wildlife crime offences.
My vision for Dorset is for it to be the safest county in England and Wales so I am absolutely committed to keeping our rural communities, our wildlife, our heritage and our beautiful countryside safe, in order to achieve the vision for the county I care about so deeply.
Police and Crime Commissioner David Sidwick
Statement on Rural Crime Team
I would like to give some clarity regarding the changes made to Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team and its remit, given the recent misleading reports that have appeared in print and social media.
Dorset Police remains committed to catching those responsible for the abhorrent instances of wildlife crime that currently take place in our beautiful county. We also remain committed to stamping out all other instances of crime that affect those living in rural areas. With this in mind we have reviewed our Rural Crime Strategy for the county and have invested in our Rural Crime Team, allocating additional officers to tackle all aspects of rural, wildlife and heritage-related crime in Dorset.
The name change to the Rural Crime Team simply reflects this additional focus.
It is disappointing therefore that this change has been portrayed as a lesser service, rather than the investment that it is. It is vital to me that communities across Dorset have confidence in their Police force to deliver the services that matter to them and that is why it is important to take the time to listen to local people and to respond to their concerns.
I will continue to work closely with our many partner agencies in relation to these issues. I want to make it clear that Dorset police continues to take any and all potential wildlife offences seriously and will act to prevent and detect offences wherever possible.
Chief Constable Scott Chilton