Defining of Offenses
Wildlife crimes are diverse in nature and differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction depending on whether the goals of the law in that jurisdiction are protection of wildlife or regulation of wildlife use. Wildlife offences could vary from protection of a particular wildlife species, protection of habitats, prevention of trafficking in wildlife and their products or even contravening licenses and permits issued lawfully for wildlife use.
The wildlife law has to clearly define what conduct is considered an offense. Defining offenses increases the effectiveness of law enforcement mechanisms within the law.
Penalties are an important tool in any piece of legislation and are important in punishing offenders and deterring potential offenders. If penalties must be punitive enough to negatively impact any gain that an offender would get from committing the offense. The severity of the penalty should reflect the severity of the harm caused by the perpetrator. If the offender does not risk going at a loss if he is found guilty of the crime, then he/she will choose to take their chances and gain from committing the offense. Some of the penalties that can be provided for in a wildlife law include:
1. Imprisonment – The United Nations Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (UNCTOC) defines a serious crime to mean conduct constituting an offence punishable by a maximum deprivation of liberty of at least four years or a more serious penalty. A prison term of at least four years can therefore be used to measure of whether or not an offence in the law is deemed to be serious.
2. Fines – Another form of punishment is fining offenders. Fining is aimed at taking away the economic benefit of committing the crime from the offender. One measure of whether or not fines are high enough to punish the offender is whether the fine reflects the economic value of the damage done or whether the fine is more than a half of the average annual income in that country.
3. Forfeiture – Another important penalty is forfeiture, whether it is forfeiture of proceeds of crime or forfeiture of instrumentalities of crime. UNCTOC addresses confiscation and seizure of proceeds of crimes and instrumentalities of crime where they have been used in the commission of organized crimes.