Paul J Watson Solicitors - 116 Borough Road - Middlesbrough - TS1 2ES - T: 01642 293427




Wildlife and Rural Crime Solicitor

Our Crime Team have the knowledge and expertise to help you defend against all aspects of wildlife crime and rural crime.

Our team of Solicitors offer free initial advice and are on hand to quickly advise you in the police station and courts.

If you are arrested for a wildlife crime or rural crime, or even asked to attend a voluntary interview, our assistance is free, under legal aid. It is important to know that everyone, regardless of their financial circumstances, receives free legal aid for police station advice and you can choose your solicitor. Ask for Paul J Watson and we can attend with you, 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Read our reviews and see why we are one of the highest rated solicitors in Middlesbrough.





solicitor info legal reviews




The terms “rural crime” and “wildlife crime” cover a wide range of offences and we can advise and assist you on any criminal offence, including;-


Poaching offences;-
• Night time poaching (1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before sunrise).
• Day time poaching (1 hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset).
• Unlawfully entering or being on land with any gun, net, snare, lamp for purpose of taking game.
• Unlawful trespass on any land in daytime or being on land in search or pursuit of game, woodcock, snipe or rabbits – hares, pheasants, partridge, grouse.
• Hare coursing.
• Deer poaching - Entering land, without lawful authority, in search or pursuit of deer with intention of taking, killing or injuring -or - To kill, injure any deer or attempt to do so. Search for or pursue, with such intent, or, without authority, remove any deer carcass.
• Fish poaching – Take or destroy or attempt to do so, any fish from private waters or private right of fishery both game and course fish (offence under Section 32 of the Theft Act).


Hunting Act 2004 offences;-
• Hunting for fox, hare, or deer with dog, (or rabbits or rats without the landowner’s permission). It is against the law to hunt for a wild mammal with a dog, unless the hunting is exempt.

Under the Poaching Prevention Act 1862, a police officer can stop and search any person or vehicle on any highway, street or public place, if they have reasonable cause to suspect poaching. Any game, article, dog or vehicle related to the suspected committed offence may be seized and detained. In relation to deer poaching, the police may seize deer, venison, animal, weapon or vehicle related to that suspected offence.


Firearms Act 1968 offences;-

• Trespass on land with firearm (no age limits apply).
• Have firearm in public place without reasonable excuse (no age limits apply).


Offensive weapons;-

• Using a crossbow/bow to kill any bird or animal.
• Possession of a knife blade/sharp pointed article in public place without legitimate reason.


Other related offences;-

• For anyone aged over 12 years – fishing without a rod licence can result in prosecution by the Environment Agency.
• Under Section 34 Road Traffic Act, it is an offence to drive, without lawful authority, any motor vehicle on common land, moorland, other land of any description not being part of road or public footpath/bridleway;
• Fly tipping;
• Theft of livestock – theft of sheep, cows, pigs etc.
• Theft of farm equipment;
• Farm burglary;
• Quad theft, all-terrain vehicle theft and 4x4 theft;
• Heritage crime – includes any offence which causes damage to assets of historical interest e.g. criminal damage, arson, theft of artefacts, metal theft, unauthorised metal detecting, unauthorised development and damage by vehicles.


Animal and plant related offences;-

• Protection of Badgers Act 1992 - Badger baiting or digging;
• Bat persecution- bats and their resting places are protected under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It is unlawful to attempt to move bats or to block the access to their roost under Regulation 41 of the 2010 Act. This is an offence of strict liability, which means that there does not have to be evidence of any intent or even recklessness. If you damage or destroy the breeding or resting place, even accidentally, this is an offence.
• Raptor persecution – under section 1 and 5(1)(a) of Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 it an offence for any person to 'Intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird. This often includes use of illegal snares or poisoning;
• Theft of wild birds or eggs or Disturbance of wild birds, eggs or nests - All British birds, their nests and eggs are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Nest disturbance could include walking or working in a known nesting area; heather burning, repeated use of machinery such as quad bikes and use of forestry equipment;
• Theft of wild animals or wild plants or Disturbance of animals, plants or habitat – protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981;
• European Protected Species
(link: - It an offence deliberately to kill, capture, or disturb a European Protected Species, or to damage or destroy the breeding site or resting place of such an animal.
• Animal cruelty - British wild mammals are protected from deliberate acts of cruelty under The Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996 and a wild animal under the control of man may also be protected from harm under the Animal Welfare Act;
• Illegal use of pest control measures – lethal pest control can only be implemented with a licence and must not affect other animals;
• Invasive species - It is illegal to dump unwanted invasive non-native species plants and animals into the environment under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 e.g. Japanese knotweed or Giant Hogweed;
• Illegal wildlife trade - CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is a 1973 international treaty to protect wildlife against exploitation. It restricts trade of protected species of animals and plants. Elephant ivory, rhino horns, tiger parts and live animals such as reptiles and wild birds are all commonly illegally traded.


Wildlife Crime Acts and Directives

▪ Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards
▪ Animal Welfare Act 2006 ▪ Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994
▪ The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010
▪ Conservation of Seals Act 1970
▪ Control of Trade in Endangered Species (enforcement) Regulations 1997
▪ Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora (EC Habitats Directive)
▪ The Countryside and Rights of way Act 2000
▪ The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976
▪ Deer Act 1991
▪ Game Act 1831
▪ Game Licences Act 1860
▪ General licences for wildlife management (Natural England)
▪ Hedgerows Regulations 1997
▪ Hunting Act 2004
▪ Hunting Act Advice
▪ Lethal Control general licence (Natural England)
▪ National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act 1949
▪ Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006
▪ Night Poaching Act 1828 ▪ Pesticide Safety Directorate (PSD)
▪ Pests Act 1954
▪ Protection of Animals Act 1911
▪ Protection of Animals (Amendment) Act 1988
▪ The Protection of Badgers Act 1992
▪ Quarry Species & Shooting Seasons
▪ Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975
▪ The Spring Traps Approval Order 1995
▪ The Spring Traps Approval (Variation)(England) Order 2007 (Statutory Instrument 2007 No. 2708)
▪ Wild Mammals (protection) Act 1996
▪ The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
▪ The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c) Regulations 1994


You can find further details on the law and legislation on the Government website -