A businessman who destroyed a bat roost in a Derbyshire building has been found guilty of breaching the Conservation of Habits and Species Regulations 2010.
Hargurdial Singh Rai and his company ISAR Enterprises Limited, both of Birmingham, were convicted by magistrates in Chesterfield on April 28, 2014 of destroying the bat roost in an empty commercial property in Dale Road in Matlock in 2012.
Mr Rai (55) is a managing director of the company who purchased the premises with the intention of converting it into accommodation.Â An ecological report produced as part of the planning conditions identified a roost of brown long-eared bats in the loft space of one of the premises.
The court heard that work could only take place on the building if Natural England issued a licence.Â The developers made no application for any licence and went ahead with work, which included replacing the roof and converting the loft into a room.
The work resulted in the destruction of the bat roost.Â The offences were reported to Derbyshire Constabulary and specially trained wildlife liaison officers, with the assistance of the National Wildlife Crime Unit, investigated the allegations.
All bats are classed as European Protected Species and both the bats and their roosts are fully protected by law.
Mr Rai denied the offences.
After the conviction the CPS Prosecutor Rod Chapman made an application for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
Mr Rai and ISAR Enterprises Ltd were committed to Derby Crown Court for sentence and a POCA hearing to be heard on June 2, 2014.
PC Emerson Buckingham, who investigated the case said: â€œThe force takes wildlife crime extremely seriously and Iâ€™m pleased that the magistrates I believe that this is the first time that the POCA has been considered for offences relating to bat persecution, which is one of the six UK wildlife crime priorities.
â€œIf anyone has any concerns or suspicions about wildlife crime they should contact their local police on 101.â€
Derbyshireâ€™s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles, who has campaigned for work to tackle rural and wildlife crime, praised the officers whose determined investigation led to the courtâ€™s guilty verdict.
He said: â€œThis sends out a very strong and clear message that crimes against wildlife will not be tolerated and Derbyshire Constabulary will take robust action against those who choose to ignore the law.Â I will watch the outcome of the POCA hearing in June with interest, but whatever the decision on the day I think this outcome will cause other people to consider their actions carefully.
â€œRural and wildlife crime usually takes place without numerous witnesses but this does not preclude a successful investigation as this case shows.â€
A spokesman for the the Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) said: â€œWe were saddened to hear about the destruction of a bat roost in Dale Rd, Matlock. The referral of the case to crown court for consideration of confiscation of assets is a ground-breaking initiative that is warmly welcomed as it sends a clear message that such crime does not pay. BCT is grateful for the work undertaken by both the police and CPS and is pleased to have been able to contribute evidence that has allowed the matter to be referred to the higher court.â€
Rod Chapman, Senior Crown Prosecutor and East Midlands Wildlife Crime Co-ordinator said: â€œIt was our case that Hargurdial Singh Rai knew about the batsâ€™ roosts, but went ahead with the development without the requisite surveys and supervision. The laws protecting bats and their roosts are there for a reason, to protect them from decline and in the worst cases extinction. This case will serve as a sharp warning to anyone who chooses to ignore the legislation to further their own business interests.â€