Government plans to extend the powers of wildlife inspectors have been roundly criticised by the police and the Country Land and Business Association.

Under the Government’s Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, currently in the House of Lords, wildlife inspectors will gain powers significantly greater than those held by police officers.

For example, under the protection of Badgers Act 1992, the police only have the power to stop and search and there is no power to enter premises.

However, under the Bill it is proposed that wildlife inspectors will have the power to do so, even if they do not suspect that a crime has been committed.

The police are concerned this will lead to confusion over their role in tackling wildlife crime.

The CLA said it was unhappy that there was no prior consultation by DEFRA on this proposal.

David Fursdon, CLA president said : “Naturally, we condemn wildlife crime in any form, but it is an emotive issue and individuals who are accused of a wildlife offence risk a far greater degree of publicity and opprobrium than people accused of crimes which are considered equivalent in terms of the sentencing powers available.

“As such we believe that suspicions of wildlife crimes should be investigated by a body which has an accepted system of checks and balances and in whom those likely to be affected have confidence.”