Bats and metal theft from churches
The country is currently experiencing a sharp increase in the theft of metals (particularly lead) from church buildings. Despite the Smartwater initiative instigated by Ecclesiastical Insurance Group the problem currently shows no signs of abating.
The Diocese of Lincoln, in association with Natural England, Lincolnshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) have agreed that where theft of metals occur to churches that have known bat populations then, if damage or destruction to a roost can be proved, not only will offenders be prosecuted for theft but will also be prosecuted under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for disturbing a protected species. The relevant portions of the act prohibit the following:
• Intentionally or recklessly to damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place that a bat uses for shelter or protection. This applies whether bats are present in the roost or not.
• Intentionally or recklessly to disturb a bat while it is occupying a structure or place that it uses for shelter or protection.
If your church has been a victim of theft and is known to have (or have had) bats roosting within it then it is vital that the police are informed and an incident number is obtained - the CPS requires this before it will consider initiating a prosecution. When you need to report an instance of wildlife crime, do not ring your local Wildlife Crime Officer direct - Ring the Lincolnshire Police on 01522 532222. If you live in North or North East Lincolnshire please ring the main switchboard for the Police Force which covers your area. At present the potential penalty for disturbing a bat is a £5,000 fine, and if more than one bat is involved the fine can rise to £5,000 per bat. Offenders can also face a custodial sentence of six months in prison and the confiscation of any equipment used during the disturbance (including vehicles).
For further information contact:
Mr Matthew Naylor
The Old Palace
Lincoln LN2 1PU