Wildlife Law

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

Aiming to sweep away legal barriers which stop effective wildlife management. Some of our recommendations have been implemented by the Infrastructure Act 2015.

Download the final report

Download the first report: Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species.

Download the report summary

The problem

Over the last decade, wildlife protection and the sustainable management of our natural heritage have become increasingly regarded as key policy aims for Government.

However, the legal framework for wildlife management is overly complicated, frequently contradictory and unduly prescriptive.

Consequently, the law creates unnecessary barriers to effective wildlife management, including the efficient implementation and enforcement of Government policy.

The project

The wildlife law project was proposed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for the Law Commission’s 11th programme of law reform, effective from July 2011. In March 2012, the Department asked us to include consideration of appeals.

The project includes consideration of the law relating to the conservation, control, protection and exploitation of wildlife in England and Wales. It does not include discussion of the law relating to habitats or the Hunting Act 2004.

We consulted widely on provisional proposals contained in a Consultation Paper published August 2012.

The project provided for a review point following consultation. In September 2013, Defra Ministers agreed that the project should continue to the next phase.

On 15 October 2013, we published an interim statement. This statement outlined the key decisions we reached following consultation and reflected the review document submitted to Ministers as part of the review process.

Our recommendations

We published two reports on the project.

On 11 February 2014, we published the first report, Wildlife Law: Control of Invasive Non-native Species.

It recommended introducing orders which will make it possible, under certain circumstances, to compel land owners or occupiers to carry out control or eradication operations, or allow them to be carried out by the issuing authority

We published our final report and accompanying draft Bill on 10 November 2015.

We recommended:

  • that the patchwork of existing legislation be replaced by a single statute
  • Existing protections for wild animals, birds and plants are maintained but a statutory procedure for amending the schedules is introduced
  • existing requirement for protected species lists to be reviewed every five years is extended to include all relevant lists
  • a reduction in the current dependency on criminal law by allowing an appropriate mix of regulatory measures such as guidance, advice and a varied and flexible system of civil sanctions such as fines and bans
  • the penalty for the most serious wildlife crimes will be extended from six months to two years in prison


We published our final report and draft Bill on 10 November 2015. Some of our recommendations, relating to the control of invasive non-native species and published in a separate report in February 2014, were given effect in the Infrastructure Act 2015.

Both the UK and Welsh Governments have responded to our Report making it clear that neither intends to implement our recommendations in the immediate future.

On 22 November 2016 Dr Therese Coffey MP, the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, wrote to the Chair of the Law Commission giving the Government’s response.

She cited the need to consider the implications of EU Exit for our approach to wildlife policy before deciding whether and how to implement our proposals.

Lesley Griffiths AM, the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs also wrote with the Welsh Government’s views citing similar reasons.

Both letters are available below.

Documents and downloads

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Nicholas Paines KC