3 February 2004
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (WCA) protects bats and their roosts in England, Scotland and Wales. Some parts have been amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW) which applies only in England and Wales.
The Conservation (Natural Habitats,&c.) Regulations 1994, better known as the Habitats Regulations, implements the Council Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora – better known as the Habitats Directive. All bats are listed as ‘European protected species of animals’.
Bats may also be protected by site safeguard measures, for example if their roost site or feeding grounds are notified as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC)or a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
It is an offence for any person to:
It is not illegal:
A police officer who suspects with reasonable cause that a person is committing – or has committed – an offence can stop and search them, search or examine any relevant thing in their possession, and seize it. They can also enter land other than a dwelling house without a warrant, or enter and search a dwelling house (with or without other persons) with a warrant. In England and Wales, the CRoW Act makes bat offences arrestable.
The potential fine for each offence is £5,000. If more than one bat is involved, the fine is £5,000 per bat. In England and Wales an offender can also be imprisoned for six months. The forfeiture of any bat or other thing by the court is mandatory on conviction, and items used to commit the offence – vehicles, for example – may be forfeited.
The WCA requires every Local Authority to bring the Act to the attention of the public and schoolchildren, and allows the Local Authority to take prosecutions in its area.
IMPORTANT: if you find a sick or ailing bat, you should not approach or handle the animal but seek advice from the Bat Conservation Trust.