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A man who admitted destroying a roost for a protected species of bat has been ordered by a court to pay more than £7,000.

Iain Russell Turner, aged 50 and of The Street in Motcombe, appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentencing on Friday 11 October 2019 for an offence of damaging or destroying the breeding site or resting place of a European protected species of animal.

Turner pleaded guilty to the offence at a previous hearing at Weymouth Magistrates’ Court on Monday 9 September 2019.

On Tuesday 4 September 2018 an ecologist survey was carried out at Turner’s address as part of refurbishments that were being carried out.

At the rear of the property there were two extensions and one of these, a log store, was identified by the ecologist as having a bat roost in it.

The ecologist informed Turner about the bat roost both verbally and in an email that was later submitted as a formal report on Friday 14 September 2018. It explained that further surveys would need to be conducted and analysis carried out to establish the species of bat and extent of the roost.

Between Friday 21 September and Monday 24 September 2018 Turner demolished the log store at the property.

On Thursday 27 September 2018 a second ecologist was instructed to carry out a report into the property. This report found no signs of a bat roost as the log store had already been demolished by Turner.

The second ecologist issued a Negative Bat Check document that was subsequently used by Turner in a planning application of March 2019.

A Dorset Police wildlife crime officer attended the address and informed Turner that an offence may have been committed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In police interview, Turner admitted that he did not read the report submitted by the first ecologist and did not realise that he would be committing an offence by demolishing the log store without further ecological work.

He was sentenced by the judge to a fine of £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £425 and a victim surcharge. Turner was also ordered to pay £3,720 for a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Confiscation Order.

Police Constable Claire Dinsdale, Rural Crime Coordinator for Dorset Police, said:  ‘This result has come during our national week of action for wildlife and rural crime. Bat roosts are protected all year round whether they are present or not under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They also have some of the highest protection under Regulation 43 of the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2017.

‘When the presence of a bat roost is suspected, there is a legal process that must be followed. Works can be licenced and mitigation measures put in place to protect the bats and their roost site to minimise the impact on their population.

‘In this case a Natterer’s bat roost has been destroyed. This is a rare species and vulnerable to roost loss through demolition.

‘Dorset Police’s Economic Crime Unit has obtained a Proceeds of Crime confiscation order for this bat case. We were the second force in the country to do so in a previous case and we will continue to use these powers when a defendant is shown to have financially benefitted from wildlife crime.’

Pete Charleston, Conservation Wildlife Crime Officer at the Bat Conservation Trust, said: “Natterer’s bats are scarce in the UK but our population is of international importance. This case demonstrates why bat crime is one of the UK Government’s wildlife crime priorities.

“It is therefore disappointing to hear of a roost used by this species having been illegally and needlessly destroyed. The sanctions imposed at court today amply demonstrates that our wildlife is valued and that those who choose to persecute it will be held to account.”

There is a National Bat Helpline for any questions or concerns about bats, telephone 0345 1300 228 or email enquiries@bats.org.uk, and builders and developers are encouraged to call for advice. There is also an out of hours helpline which is run by volunteers during the summer and is for emergency calls only. For more information please visit the Bat Conservation Trust website: www.bats.org.uk

To report wildlife crime, dial 999 if the crime is in progress or 101 if evidence is left at the scene. For all other matters, please report online at www.dorset.police.uk. For more information on wildlife crime please visit the National Wildlife Crime Unit’s website: www.nwcu.police.uk

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