Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: Invasive Species (England and Wales)

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) is the principal legislation dealing with non-native species in Britain. It will shortly be amended by the Infrastructure Bill for England and Wales (when it is enacted). I have blogged a number of times following progress.

The WCA has already been amended in relation to England and Wales by various pieces of legislation, including the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedule 9) (England and Wales) Order 2010, the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Section 14(1) of the WCA makes it illegal to release or allow to escape into the wild any animal which is not ordinarily resident in Great Britain and is not a regular visitor to Great Britain in a wild state, or is listed in Schedule 9 to the Act. It is also illegal to plant or otherwise cause to grow in the wild any plant listed in Schedule 9 to the Act.

I have blogged separately about the situation in Scotland, where Section 14 operates differently.

England and Wales

The Schedule 9 list of animal and plant species has been amended by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (Variation of Schedule 9) (England and Wales) Order 2010.

Offences under section 14 carry a maximum penalty of a £5,000 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment on summary conviction (i.e. at Magistrates’ Court) and an unlimited fine (i.e. whatever the court feels to be commensurate with the offence) and/or 2 years imprisonment on indictment (i.e. at Crown Court). Guidance on Section 14 of the WCA gives further information. Here is a list of species in Schedule 9 of the WCA for England and Wales.

Section 14ZA of the WCA, as inserted by section 50 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006, creates an offence of selling, offering or exposing for sale, or possessing or transporting for the purposes of sale, non-native species that are listed in Schedule 9 to the WCA and are specified for the purposes by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (prohibition on Sale etc. of Invasive Non-native Plants) (England) Order 2014.

This 2014 Order prohibits a number of plants from sale in England due to their significant negative impacts on biodiversity and the economy. Those species prohibited from sale are (alternative names are given in brackets):
– Water Fern, Azolla filiculoides, (Fairy Fern)
– Parrot’s Feather, Myriophyllum aquaticum, (Brazilian Watermilfoil, Myriophyllum brasiliense, Myriophyllum Proserpinacoides, Enydria aquatica)
– Floating Pennywort, Hydrocotyle ranunculoides
– Floating Water Primrose, Ludwigia peploides Primrose, Water, Ludwigia grandiflora Primrose, Water, Ludwigia uruguayensis
– Australian Swamp Stonecrop, Crassula helmsii, (New Zealand Pigmyweed, Tillaea aquatica, Tillaea recurva)

Section 14 ZB of the WCA, as inserted by section 51 of the NERC Act allows the Secretary of State to issue or approve codes of practice on animals which are not ordinarily resident in and are not regular visitors to Great Britain in a wild state and animals or plants included in Schedule 9 to the WCA (e.g. Horticultural Code of Practice). The codes alone cannot be used to prosecute but must be taken into account by a court in any case in which they appear to the court to be relevant.

Section 18D of the WCA, as inserted by section 52 of the NERC Act provides that a wildlife inspector may, at any reasonable time, enter and inspect any premises (which excludes dwellings) for the purpose of, amongst other things, ascertaining whether an offence under section 14 is being, or has been, committed on those premises. Section 18E further provides that a wildlife inspector may, for the purpose of ascertaining whether a section 14 offence is being, or has been, committed in respect of any specimen, require any person who has the specimen in his possession or control to make it available for examination, and may require the taking of a sample from a specimen found during an inspection.

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