Disproportionate fine as wildlife crime comes home to roost.
Before we begin, I want to assure you that I am as big an animal lover as the next guy. There are currently two boxer dogs under my desk, both of whom came from a rescue home. I once adopted an orang-utan for my daughter. I have given money to a donkey sanctuary. And while I will admit that I like to fish, I can assure you that everything I catch – which is not much – is returned to the water unharmed and uneaten.
That being said, the fine levied against house builder Bellway Homes for disturbing a bat roost is nothing short of ridiculous.
Look, I know the rules governing the protection of wildlife are very clear. Truth be told, I wish that Bellway Homes had abided by those rules and taken better care of those winged beasties. But the fine handed down is like a bad joke.
Now before my office is stormed by hordes of angry vegans, let me just state why I think this fine is unreasonable.
Cast your mind back to August this year when Portsmouth Crown Court handed down fines to three companies involved in the death of demolition worker David Shayler.
One company was fined £80,000. A second was fined £120,000, while a third was fined just under £57,000. All three companies were also ordered to pay court costs totalling just over £36,000. In all, the cost of a human life was valued at around £295,000.
Bellway Homes has just been fined more than twice that amount for disturbing a bat’s roost. £600,000? Seriously? Am I the only one that has an issue with that imbalance?
Now I realise that – increasingly – fines are set based upon the turnover of the company found to be guilty. I realise that Bellway Homes is a sizeable company. But that still fails to explain how a human life can be valued at under £300,000 when the cost of rendering homeless some flying rodents is valued at way over half a million pounds.
Even setting aside the feelings of David Shayler’s family, what sort of message does that send? Kill a worker and get a slap on the wrist; wake up some bats and you get the book thrown at you.
Not even Batman himself would consider that justice.