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National roll-out of Voluntary Bailiff Service begins as the North West hosts launch and induction


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The Angling Trust and Environment Agency partnership has now made possible the long-awaited national roll-out of the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS), which has been a pilot project for four years in the South East.

The North West was the first of five new VBS regions to go ‘live’ on Saturday, 13 February, 2016. This region includes Cheshire, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria, with 22 successful applicants attending the inaugural mandatory induction day held in Manchester.

The event was jointly hosted by Angling Trust NW Regional Enforcement Manager Dave Lees, a retired Greater Manchester Police officer, and Environment Agency VBS Project Manager Adrian Brightley.

Dave Lees said: "This was a very significant day, being the birth of the VBS for North West England. All candidates have been closely vetted. The quality, enthusiasm and knowledge of our volunteers, combined with professional training, will greatly support and assist the Environment Agency and police in protecting fish and fisheries in this region. This is just the start: recruitment is a constant process, with another induction being held next autumn."
The event was attended and supported by the Environment Agency together with Chief Inspector Martin Sims, Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit, Wildlife Crime Officers from Lancashire Constabulary, and Lorraine Ellwood, the force’s Rural & Wildlife Crime Coordinator, who said: "This was a great opportunity to meet Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs and EA partners, and understand their role. Networking is key and training essential - this was an opportunity for both!  This has opened up new lines of discussion between the police, EA and the Angling Trust which will lead to improved partnership working."

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Contributors at the induction day held in Manchester were (from left)

Ch Insp Martin Sims (Head of the UK National Wildlife Crime Unit),
Dave Lees (Angling Trust NW Regional Enforcement Manager), Ian
Woods (EA Fisheries Enforcement Officer), Adrian Brightley (EA VBS
Project Manager) & Darren Bedworth (EA Fisheries Technical Specialist)

Environment Agency Fisheries Enforcement Officer Ian Wood contributed to training at the induction and said:
"On meeting the Angling Trust’s new volunteer bailiffs for the first time, I was extremely impressed by their enthusiasm. It is heart-warming to meet to such a like-minded group of true anglers - who obviously care passionately enough about fishing and the environment to step forward and volunteer. Each volunteer was genuinely eager to make their own real contribution to better targeted enforcement, conserving wildlife and protecting fish stocks."

Angling Trust National Enforcement Manager Dilip Sarkar MBE said: "Protecting fish and fisheries is surely important to all anglers and it is great to see freshwater rod licence income being constructively spent in this way. Some find it hard to understand why at Phase 1 VBS has no power, however – but this is because Phase 1 volunteers fulfil a crucial role: reporting information and evidence for the police and Environment Agency to act upon. This is because the entire system is 'intelligence-led' – meaning that such reports, and those from anglers and the wider public, are absolutely essential. Our volunteers are trained to make reports to a high evidential standard and help raise awareness. Policing methods have changed, so to properly support the Environment Agency in particular, we have to respond to this."

By 12 March 2016, similar inductions will have been held in all six regions across England – meaning that Operation Clamp Down 4, the annual multi-agency initiative focussing on illegal fishing during the coarse close season, will be a national operation for the first time.

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