Police, Trading Standards and council officers raid properties around the town

Police have arrested five people after a series of major anti-poaching raids in and around Barnstaple yesterday (Wednesday).

Nine premises were raided in a joint operation by officers from Devon and Cornwall plus Avon and Somerset Police, as well as Trading Standards, Environmental Health and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

Businesses and homes were searched as part of investigations into alleged poaching and the illegal supply of meat into the food chain.

Two men aged between 18 and 45 were arrested on suspicion of poaching offences and have been bailed.

A teenaged man plus a man and woman in their 50s were arrested on suspicion of possessing illegal firearms and are being held at Barnstaple Police Station.

Police said numerous meat samples had been taken to establish what was being sold, plus carcasses were found at several addresses and tests will be run to establish what killed the animal.

Cash, phones, computers and other weapons were also seized.

North Devon Sector Inspector Roger Bartlett said he was delighted to see partners joining forces to tackle the ‘scourge’ of poaching.

“With the work officers have been doing for a long time, I get a clear sense of the threats, fear and intimidated many people living in our rural and more isolated communities face from those involved, much of which is not reported,” he said.

“I hope this operation shows to local communities that we are serious about targeting local poachers and that it will give people the confidence to report their concerns to us, knowing that we will listen and act.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s cabinet member with responsibility for Devon and Somerset Trading Standards added: “Poaching is no longer always about a lone poacher taking something home for their larder, but an organised criminal operation where deer, fish and livestock are taken and often sold on for it to end up in restaurants, hotels or with meat suppliers.

“These people are in it for financial gain, and linked to other types of criminality.”