Presentation by Richard Atkins the eu criminal Lawyers Association at the institute of Advanced Legal studies 2 November 2015 Berne Convention

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Presentation by Richard Atkins the EU Criminal Lawyers Association at the institute of Advanced Legal studies 2 November 2015

Berne Convention

The starting point for the protection of endangered species in the EU and Europe as a whole is the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats adopted in Bern 19 September 1979 found in the European Treaty Series - No. 104.

Chapter I – General provisions

Article 1

The aims of this Convention are to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats, especially those species and habitats whose conservation requires the co-operation of several States, and to promote such co-operation.

Particular emphasis is given to endangered and vulnerable species, including endangered and vulnerable migratory species.

Article 2

The Contracting Parties shall take requisite measures to maintain the population of wild flora and fauna at, or adapt it to, a level which corresponds in particular to ecological, scientific and cultural requirements, while taking account of economic and recreational requirements and the needs of sub-species, varieties or forms at risk locally.
Article 3

Each Contracting Party shall take steps to promote national policies for the conservation of wild flora, wild fauna and natural habitats, with particular attention to endangered and vulnerable species, especially endemic ones, and endangered habitats, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention.

Each Contracting Party undertakes, in its planning and development policies and in its measures against pollution, to have regard to the conservation of wild flora and fauna.

Enforcement of the Convention in the EU is effected through two directives.

The Habitats Directive known as Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) is a European Union directive adopted in 1992 as an EU response to the Berne Convention above.

It is one of the EU's two directives in relation to wildlife and nature conservation, the other is the Birds Directive 2009/147/EC. However, in the UK is regularly enforced because our own domestic legislation the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 affords protection to all wild birds of whatever species. Exceptions apply under both General and Special Licenses issued by Natural England. Needless to say bird species in need of protection such as birds of prey for instance are never the subject of exemption under General or Special License system.

It aims to protect some 220 habitats and approximately 1,000 species listed in the directive's Annexes. These are species and habitats which are considered to be of European interest, following criteria given in the directive.

  • Annex I covers habitats,

  • Annex II species requiring designation of Special Areas of Conservation,

  • Annex IV species in need of strict protection, and

  • Annex V species whose taking from the wild can be restricted by European law.

The directive led to the setting up of a network of Special Areas of Conservation, which together with the existing Special Protection Areas form a network of protected sites across the European Union called Natura 2000. Article 17 of the directive requires EU Member States to report on the state of their protected areas every six years.

The Birds Directive (more formally known as Council Directive 2009/147/EC on the conservation of wild birds) was adopted in 2009. It replaces Council Directive 79/409/EEC of 2 April 1979 on the conservation of wild birds which was modified several times and had become very unclear. It aims to protect all European wild birds and the habitats of listed species, in particular through the designation of Special Protection Areas (often known by the acronym SPA).

The Habitats Directive led to the setting up of a network of Special Areas of Conservation, which together with the existing Special Protection Areas form a network of protected sites across the European Union called Natura 2000.

In the practice in England and Wales (and the UK) SPC and SAC are protected under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 through what are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Importance known as “triple-SI” or SSSIs.

Variations exist to EU legislation by virtue of devolution in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but essentially the law is the same as in England.

In terms of animals UK legislative protection particularly extends to:

  • all 17 species of bat

  • dormouse

  • great crested newt

  • otter

  • sand lizard

  • smooth snake

  • wildcat

In England and Wales enforcement is by direct implementation of Regulation 41 of The Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2010).

For European protected species, it is a criminal offence to:

•      capture, injure or kill any such animal

•      disturb wild animals of any species

•      take or destroy their eggs;

•       damage or destroy a breeding or resting place of such an animal;

•       possession or control, any live or dead animal;

•       deliberately pick, collect, cut, uproot or destroy a wild plant;

•       possess, sell or exchange such a plant.

These are strict liability offences and are enforced as summary only offences punishable with to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both. List of EPS – Animal and Plants. Reference is by their Biological names.

 Scientific name



Horseshoe Bats


Other Bat Species


Dolphins, porpoises and whales (all species)

Muscardinus avellanarius


Gortyna borelii lunata

Fisher’s Estuarine Moth*

Triturus cristatus

Great Crested (or Warty) Newt

Maculinea arion

Large Blue Butterfly

Anisus vorticulus

Lesser Whirlpool Ram’s-horn Snail*

Caretta caretta

Chelonia mydas

Lepidochelys kempii

Eretmochelys imbricata

Dermochelys coriacea

Marine Tuqrtles

Bufo calamita

Natterjack Toad

Lutra lutra


Rana lessonae

Pool Frog*

Lacerta agilis

Sand Lizard

Coronella austriaca

Smooth Snake

Acipenser sturio


Felis silvestris

Wild Cat




Apium repens

Creeping Marshwort

Gentianella anglica

Early Gentian

Liparis loeselii

Fen Orchid

Luronium natans

Floating-leaved water Plantain

Trichomanes speciosum

Lilarney Fern

Cypripedium calceolus

Lady’s Slipper

Najas flexilis

Slender Naiad

Rumex rupestris

Shore Dock

Saxifraga hirculus

Yellow Marsh Saxifrage

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