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Voluntary Bailiff Service

The Voluntary Bailiff Service

The Voluntary Bailiff Service logo - small
The Voluntary Bailiff Service logo
Poaching and fish theft is a primary concern for all anglers - and protecting fish and fisheries is crucially important to all of us, regardless of whether a coarse, game, or sea angler. The Fisheries Enforcement Campaign (FEC) and Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) provides a unique opportunity for us all to get involved and play our part. If you are as passionate as we are about effecting positive change and supporting the Environment Agency (EA) and police in this challenging but essential task - read on.

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

Working together: new Phase 1 SE Volunteer Bailiffs after a successful training day, pictured with Angling Trust, EA and police trainers

If a response is not possible, the call is far from wasted - because the fact that it was made is a positive statistic, and may form a pattern with other reports, highlighting a particular location, time, modus operandi, or even individual offenders. Making those calls and submitting information, therefore, underpins and feeds the whole process. The crucial importance of this cannot be over emphasised - so remember that no calls, no information = no intelligence = no action. Moreover, the higher the standard of hard evidence contained in those calls, the more likely it is that a successful prosecution will be the outcome. So, with that in the forefront of your mind, read on...

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...

South Downs Area Coordinator Colin Stirling with EA Fisheries Officer Mark Mills

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

So, taking all of the foregoing into account, former Angling Trust Chairman, Mike Heylin OBE, envisioned an army of anglers appropriately trained to make those calls and support the EA in particular (Phase 1) - like Neighbourhood Watch, acting as 'eyes and ears'. Some of these volunteers, Mike thought, might even be suitable to receive the same training and powers as under-resourced EA fisheries enforcement officers, and work directly in support of them, checking rod licences and dealing with certain fisheries offences - meaning that the professionals could concentrate on more complicated and serious enforcement work (Phase 2). This is, of course, similar at this point to the Special Constabulary - a voluntary organisation with a long and proud history of providing essential support to the British police service.

South London & Kent Area Coordinator Rob Murrock

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

Importantly, everyone needs to understand that this is not about replacing the EA as the lead agency statutorily empowered to deliver fisheries enforcement - far from it. What it is about, however, is empowering anglers to support the Agency and, where appropriate, the police. In fact, an assurance was provided that should any Agency jobs be threatened as a result of the VBS, the Angling Trust would withdraw the initiative. That remains the case, so the key message is that this exists to support the authorities. Now, if you have got this far, you could be what we are looking for in a Volunteer Bailiff (VB). What we do not want is vigilantes and 'have a go heroes'. What we need are responsible anglers able to understand the law and due process, and work within a carefully thought out framework.

West Thames Volunteer Bailiffs on patrol

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

A word on volunteering: Britain has a long history of community-minded people stepping forward and volunteering to help make a difference, in all kinds of areas, from the National Trust to the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Volunteering is nothing new, therefore, on the wider stage. Indeed, in Holland, Poland and Lithuania, literally thousands of volunteers - all equally dedicated to preserving the environment and protecting fish and fisheries - formally support the authorities in that mission. Volunteering has many advantages: extra training, responsibility, making a difference, learning more about the professionals' work, gaining unique experience - and it's also a very good thing to have on any CV. We value and appreciate our volunteers very much - because they are the cornerstone without which none of this would be possible. So, if you are still with me, read on some more...

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

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)

As honest, responsible, law-abiding anglers we should not have to tolerate licence-dodgers and cheats. So, in addition to contributing to providing intelligence on fisheries offences and wider crime on our waterways, at Phase 2, selected volunteers are provided the same training and powers as EA fisheries enforcement officers. Those volunteers are then passed on from the VBS to become EA volunteers, supervised by EA Team Leaders, in whose teams they work and directly support - particularly in respect of rod licence compliance.

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.

Here's a short film, made at the VBS SE April 2015 induction:

The VBS is open to all, but you must self-declare any previous convictions. Spent, historic, convictions will not necessarily prevent an applicant from serving, but we do need to know - so you must be truthful.

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.

Phase One Volunteer Bailiffs are issued with a Volunteers' Handbook, pocket notebook and a photo identity card (the latter not pictured for security reasons)

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

All VBs are issued with a VBS Handbook as a point of reference, an official pocket notebook, an ID card, and Angling Trust badged clothing. Traveling expenses are payable regarding attendance at inductions, and on occasion joint patrols. All VBs must be individual members of the Angling Trust - this is for insurance purposes and is an inflexible requirement of the EA. The Angling Trust is recognised by government as the sport's governing body, fighting for fish and fishing;annual individual membership costs just £29, and can be taken out HERE
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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