Natural England has issued a consultation paper asking for views on its proposal to start using civil sanctions, as now permitted by DEFRA.

NE considers that its current powers for enforcing wildlife and natural environment regulations are too disproportionate and not sufficiently flexible, amounting as they do to just warning letters and criminal proceedings. The use of civil sanctions (much as the Environment Agency already has at its disposal) would allow a more consistent yet flexible approach and allow offenders to avoid the stigma of prosecution.

The new powers would include monetary penalties of up to £250,000 per offence (to negate the motivation of financial gain), restoration and stop notices. The consultation seeks views on the reclassification of various offences, taking into account environmental impact and listed aggravating and mitgating factors, and also on the guidance dealing with when each new power would be appropriate.

The consulation period closes on 30 September and the new powers could be in use from 3 January 2012.