It isn’t too late to check your site for Great Crested Newts.
In 2014, we brought you news of a simpler, more cost-effective survey technique to evaluate the presence/absence of Great Crested Newts. eDNA testing has since been accepted by Natural England as a, novel, legitimate survey method for assessing GCN presence, and is a method being used effectively at JFA Environmental Planning.
The advantage of eDNA is if the test is negative for GCN no further surveys are required and considerable time and cost savings are likely. If GCN are found to be present, then traditional surveys are still required to assess the population size, as eDNA can only provide limited information regarding newt presence.
eDNA also effectively extends the survey season to the end of June. Aquatic surveys should be completed by mid June, with two – three surveys between mid April and mid May. Should the need for a survey become apparent at the end of May eDNA provides an opportunity to identify whether great crested newts are absent without waiting until the following survey season.
For a quick guide to eDNA surveys, click here.
Our clients won’t, but others could if their actions result in wildlife crime convictions where fines that can be imposed by the Magistrates’ court on summary conviction are now unlimited.
This applies to many environmental offences. Previously, fines payable on conviction were capped, often at a statutory maximum of £5,000.
The new legislation has come about due to provisions in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012, which came into force on 12 March 2015. This is a significant expansion of the Magistrates’ sentencing powers.
The new provisions apply to all “summary” offences (which are always heard by the Magistrates’ court) and to “either way” offences when dealt with in the Magistrates’ (rather than the Crown) court. They apply to all offences committed after 12 March 2015.
Businesses are therefore are a risk of much higher sentences from the Magistrates’ court if environmental offences are committed.
The types of offences that will be affected would include the following:
The rationale behind the new provisions is to enable more proportionate fines to be imposed on “wealthy or corporate offenders or organisations” and to reduce the number of referrals to the Crown Court for sentencing, which can be time consuming and costly.
Until now, organisations have known what the ‘worst case scenario’ would be in terms of fines in the Magistrates’ Court because of the statutory cap on fines. That element of certainty has now gone for the higher level offences, which could make for more hotly-contested trials in the Magistrates’ Court.
The legislation is contained in section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Click here to read more.
Photograph by Graham Law
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