Set up crime unit to protect London’s wild spaces, says mayoral candidate Sian Berry

Exclusive: Green Party candidate pledges to set up a habitat crime unit to tackle ecological and wildlife crime in the capital if elected mayor

Daisy Dunne
Environment Correspondent
Sunday 14 March 2021 19:28
Green Party co-leader Sian Berry has pledged to set up a Habitat Crime Unit if elected mayor
Green Party co-leader Sian Berry has pledged to set up a Habitat Crime Unit if elected mayor

Sian Berry has pledged to set up a specialised crime unit to protect London’s wild spaces if she is elected mayor of London in May.

The Green Party candidate said she would set up a “habitat crime unit” to tackle serious ecological crimes, such as pollution, habitat destruction and fly-tipping.

Ms Berry, who is the party’s co-leader, a London Assembly member and councillor in Camden, told The Independent: “We are in a climate and ecological emergency.

“We need a unit that specialises in things that relate to pollution, harms to habitat and damage to animals. I think that’s really important to have, and it is very difficult to get individual officers to appreciate the problem.”

London already has a specialist wildlife crime unit, which investigates the illegal trade of wild animals and their products.

The proposed habitat crime unit would instead investigate harms against natural environments, including deliberate pollution and fly-tipping. At present, these incidents are dealt with by local councils.

From 2019 to 2020, London saw more fly-tipping than any other region in England, according to official data. Across England, there were 17 fly-tipping events per 1,000 people from 2019 to 2020. In London, the figure was 40 per 1,000 people.

The Woodland Trust has previously warned that fly-tipping can harm nature; for example, animals can suffocate on discarded plastic and be injured by broken glass, the conservation charity said.

“Illegal fly-tipping is causing an awful lot of harm,” Ms Berry said. “It not only causes physical harm to the environment where it is dumped, but it can also leave a toxic legacy for wildlife.”

Ms Berry, who sits on the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, said the resources for the unit would come from police unit restructuring.

“It wouldn’t be any extra cost,” she said. “Essentially, my whole policing plan is about rebalancing priorities.”

Ms Berry told The Independent in January that she would deprioritise the policing of cannabis if elected mayor, including an immediate end to officers using the drug as sole grounds for stop and searches.

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