Environmental Conservation

Papers

Opinions of the public, conservationists and magistrates on sentencing wildlife trade crimes in the UK

FREYA A. V. ST JOHNa1a2 c1, GARETH EDWARDS-JONESa1 and JULIA P. G. JONESa1

a1 School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography, Bangor University, Deiniol Road, Bangor LL57 2UW, UK

a2 Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ, UK

SUMMARY

The illegal trade in wild harvested plants and animals is a significant threat to populations and species worldwide. There is concern that in many countries sanctions for wildlife trade crimes are insufficient to act as a deterrent, and do not reflect the seriousness of offences. For these reasons it is important to understand professional and public opinions as to which aspects of such crimes make them more or less serious, and so deserving of a greater or lesser sentence. Conjoint analysis, a method used in marketing to understand which characteristics of a product are valued by consumers, was used to investigate which attributes of hypothetical wildlife trade offences (threat status and taxon of species involved, illegal profit, previous convictions and plea) UK-based conservation professionals, magistrates and the general public considered most important when sentencing wildlife criminals in the UK. Eighty-seven per cent of 682 respondents completed enough of the survey to be included in the analysis. Magistrates and the public considered illegal profit to be the single most important attribute, while conservationists considered the threat status of the species involved to be most important (considered second most important by magistrates and the public). Magistrates, when presented with adequate information, considered the threat status and corresponding legal protection afforded to wildlife when considering how serious a wildlife trade crime was, and doing so is in line with public opinion on sentencing such offences. This study highlights the importance of ensuring that judiciaries are presented with information concerning both the potential profit and conservation impact of wildlife trade crimes. Sentencing councils must develop appropriate guidelines to support judiciaries in their sentencing of wildlife crimes.

(Received September 15 2011)

(Accepted November 25 2011)

(Online publication February 07 2012)

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Dr Freya A. V. St John, current address: Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology, School of Anthropology and Conservation, Marlowe Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NZ, UK, Tel: +44 (1227) 827139 e-mail: f.a.v.stjohn@kent.ac.uk

Footnotes

† Deceased