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Voluntary Bailiff Service
The Voluntary Bailiff Service
The Essential Background
The VBS was launched in May 2012, as a pilot project in SE England - and an important, unprecedented, partnership between the Angling Trust and EA. Essentially, it works like this...
Firstly, it is vital to understand that any kind of enforcement is now driven by intelligence - which is to say information arising from incoming calls and other sources. The volume of those calls is also important - because the statistics arising evidence the extent of a problem and thereby dictate the level of priority afforded it. The system does not work by way of responding to all calls. That is simply impossible given the resources available and geographic size of areas covered. This is not to say that a response will never be forthcoming - often it is - but this all depends on what priority is given, by necessity, to other existing commitments and incoming complaints.
Working together: new Phase 1 SE Volunteer Bailiffs after a successful training day, pictured with Angling Trust, EA and police trainers
EA fisheries enforcement is 'intelligence-led', as is the police service, which conforms to what is called the 'National Intelligence Model'. There are over one million freshwater anglers. We know from social media and direct contact that many anglers are both angry and concerned regarding offences being committed on our waterways. Unfortunately, many incidents go unreported, for a variety of reasons, which is completely counter-productive. The point is, anglers actually have it within their power to see these matters better understood and prioritised - simply by making that call. Furthermore, Rural Crime is increasingly of concern to the police - and the criminal aspect of our issue is just that - so over a million freshwater anglers, out and about in the rural area at all times of the day and night, all year round, represent a significant source of rural intelligence, which the police cannot ignore. If you are still with me, read on...
The Voluntary Bailiff Service is an important and formal partnership between the Angling Trust and Environment Agency, funded by freshwater rod licence income. Pictured are South Downs Area Coordinator Colin Stirling with EA Fisheries Officer Mark Mills - working together to protect fish and fisheries and help keep our waterways safe
South London & Kent Area Coordinator Rob Murrock relates his experiences to new Volunteer Bailiffs at a Voluntary Bailiff Service SE Phase 1 induction day, held at Get Hooked on Fishing, Ealing, in April 2015. Training is provided by the Angling Trust's Regional Enforcement Managers and other staff, the Environment Agency and police
West Thames Volunteer Bailiffs on patrol with Mick Cox of the Environment Agency and Thames Valley Police officers during Operation CLAMP-DOWN - during, amongst other things, three firearms were discovered hidden on a riverbank, providing clear evidence of the link to Rural Crime and wider criminality. This is why the initiative is supported and endorsed by the police, including the all-important UK National Wildlife Crime Unit
The VBS is funded by freshwater rod licence income (coarse and trout). All anglers must have a rod licence by virtue of statute. The income from this is essential, and contributes to the EA's statutory duty to protect and improve fisheries. That money pays for so much - without which fish, fishing and fisheries would be massively negatively affected. Not having a rod licence is basically cheating honest anglers and not contributing to the greater good.
Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service staff, which includes the Voluntary Bailiff Service and Building Bridges Project, working in partnership with and in support of the Environment Agency to deliver the Fisheries Enforcement Campaign, pictured with West Mercia police officers and Agency colleagues. The six Regional Enforcement Managers are currently extending 'VBS' across England, working closely with the Agency's Project Manager, Adrian Brightley (second right)
Fisheries Enforcement Support Service
On 1 November 2015, the Angling Trust Fisheries Enforcement Support Service (FESS) was created as a result of the EA awarding the Trust the National Angling Services Contract, delivering a number of outcomes. The FESS, which is not operational but which supports fisheries enforcement through raising awareness and encouraging a multi-agency approach, is managed by National Enforcement Manager and well-known angler Dilip Sarkar MBE, a retired West Mercia Police officer, and comprises six Regional Enforcement Managers (REM) - all of whom are also highly experienced retired police officers. The FESS also includes the 'Building Bridges' Project, aimed at educating and integrating migrant anglers, and the VBS. For more information, please read our blog articles HERE and HERE
Voluntary Bailiff Service National
At the time of writing (1 December 2015), the REMs are working on extending Phase 1 VBS beyond the SE pilot project to cover the whole of England. Mandatory induction days will be held in all six regions between 6 February and 12 March 2016 - meaning that Operation CLAMP DOWN - the multi-agency focus on illegal fishing in the coarse close season - will be a national initiative for the first time. In the meantime, the Angling Trust and Environment Agency will start the process to select a small number of volunteers to elevate to Phase 2 in SE, as a pilot project. If successful, this could be expanded throughout VBS.
Voluntary Bailiff Service Structure, Training & Expectations
So, you have got this far. What about training?
All Phase 1 VBs attend a mandatory induction day in their region, at which training is provided by the Angling Trust, EA and police in such things as Risk Assessment, Health & Safety, how to report incidents to a high evidential standard, what to look for - and much more besides. The police, including the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, support and endorses the VBS - which can also contribute to that much bigger picture of Rural & Wildlife Crime in particular.
Each VBS Region is coterminous with two or more EA areas. Each area has a VBS Coordinator, whose job is to liaise with the local EA Single Point of Contact (SPOC), organise VBs and help arrange occasional joint patrols with the EA, and sometimes the police. VBs report incidents in progress to the EA 24 hour hotline (0800 80 70 60), or the police on 101/999 as appropriate. Each VBS region also has a secure website to provide patrol summaries, share information and communicate.
All Volunteer Bailiffs are issued with a reference Handbook, an official pocket notebook, an identity card and Angling Trust badged clothing. All 'VBS' regions have a secure website for reporting and communication
Enforcement is delivered without fear or favour, with integrity, regardless of rank, status, sexuality or ethnicity. For this reason all VBs are subject to the Angling Trust Discipline & Grievance Policy and trained in the essentials of policing of any kind: Prevention; Enforcement; Intelligence; Reassurance (PIER). It is especially important that our volunteers truly understand this professional, holistic, approach - and all receive input from 'Building Bridges' Project. We welcome applicants from diverse backgrounds, in all respects.
At Phase 1, VBs are not empowered. They are there to act as eyes and ears, to report what they see and hear appropriately and safely. Indeed, the safety of our volunteers is of paramount importance at all times - we do not want vigilantes or 'have a go heroes'. Phase 1 is actually an essential part of the Phase 2 selection process - enabling us to recognise those with the necessary skills and commitment to recommend for further training.
Applying to the Voluntary Bailiff Service
If you would like to become a VB, we'd very much like to hear from you. Please contact your relevant REM, who will be happy to guide you through the application process:
Remember that the police are there to deal with certain criminal matters, such as fishing without permission (Schedule 1, Theft Act 1968) and theft of fish (from enclosed waters). A guide to reporting incidents to the police can be found HERE
The Environment Agency (EA) is the statutorily empowered lead on fisheries enforcement. Please report all other matters concerning fisheries offences to the EA on 0800 80 70 60. Always ask for a reference number and request feedback in all cases.
More information regarding the wider FEC can be found HERE
Information regarding 'Building Bridges' can be found HERE
More information concerning Wildlife Crime can be found HERE
Tackle theft is another area of crime requiring redress, hence why we are working in partnership with world-leading crime-fighting company SmartWater - further information can be found HERE
If FESS can help, or if you have any other questions about the VBS, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager, Dilip Sarkar MBE.
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