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Nevin Hunter

Life after the Job: Nevin Hunter

Josh Loeb reports on the career of a man who carved out a policing niche dealing with wildlife crime.

Life after the Job: Nevin Hunter

Former detective inspector Nevin Hunter has had a wild career in policing, involving everything from stake-outs of deer poaching hotspots to inspections of imported crocodile shipments.

Until recently he was head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU) - but far from being a charicature 'wacky' figure, Nevin is proud of his hard-headed, intelligence-led policing approach.

He is also frustrated that wildlife crime is too often dismissed as being "all about fluffy animals," when in fact it can fund heinous organised crime. As for the animals, they are often long past being "fluffy," he added.

"More often than not the animals are dead by the time we become involved," he said. "It's about making sure that offending is stopped - so that for example if someone is collecting endangered birds from the wild illegally, they are prevented from continuing to do so."

Lifelong passion

Nevertheless, he acknowledges his policing career has been more than unusually colourful - and his interest in the natural world goes back a long way.

"I was a typical child of the 1960s," said Nevin (54). "I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau videos of undersea life and chose to study geology at university because I thought I could go on a lot of field trips around the UK, but I always had that conservation interest as well."

He added: "It sounds clichéd, but I wanted to help make a better society and give something back to my community. That's why I became a police officer.

"The conservation aspect was not about saving the planet, it was that I wanted there to be birds of prey in the UK, and rhinos and elephants in the wild so that when my children grew up there would still be opportunities to see those and they would not all have been destroyed."

Joining the Job

Nevin worked offshore in the North Sea oil and gas industry after graduating as a geologist, but he soon found that spending "two weeks on and two weeks off" was "not conducive to married life" and he decided to join the police.

For the first 25 years of his policing career, Nevin served as an operational officer in Devon and Cornwall Police, often dealing with illegal poaching of deer and fish. This experience led to him accompany conservation workers on a trip to Jordan to help teach the Jordanian police about protecting wildlife.

Back in England, he became one of the first Police Wildlife Liaison Officers, and in 2008 he was seconded to Bristol to work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as Chief Wildlife Inspector.

"I ran a team of inspectors checking licences on wildlife that was being traded and checked animals kept in captivity by people and in zoos - everything from reptiles and amphibians right up to things like lions and tigers - to ensure compliance with the law," Nevin said.

"I stepped off the promotion ladder. There was no career path to follow - I had just created my own career path."

However, Nevin's specialist expertise and experienced made him sought after, and almost three years ago he was appointed head of the NWCU, where he notched up notable successes including working with the UK Border Force to detect and disrupt serious organised crime.

"I knew it was going to be the last two years of my career," he says. "It was demanding and full on. I was travelling all over the UK as well as working at political level. I regularly sat in on meetings with government ministers and met with other senior police officers, but everyone in the unit was dedicated to it. There is never a shortage of trying to get people who are interested in that area of work."

Future plans

In terms of future work, Nevin says he is currently "testing the water" while enjoying some much deserved time off with his family - but he says he hopes to remain involved in wildlife crime issues, perhaps in the capacity of a freelance consultant.

He already sits on a panel of judges who examine bids for government money to fund projects aimed at reducing demand for endangered species products and providing alternative livelihoods for people who might otherwise engage in poaching abroad.

Other future employment options could include "providing specialist tactical support to networks of investigations" and providing expertise and advice to solicitors involved in wildlife crime cases - and he recently wrote a book chapter on intelligence handling.

Nevin added: "I have a particular interest in angling issues such as poaching of fish and illegal netting of fish, and I am involved in other work around enforcement in southwest England."

While admitting that he missed the Job, he added: "I got to the end of my 30 years, and now it is payback time for my family a bit. Also there is the whole thing about dead men's shoes. I have had a good chance to do things other people want to do, and I wanted to make way for someone new to come in.

"I've got a former colleague who lives down the road and I expect we will meet up the pub - two old fogeys discussing war stories."

Of his career in the police, he proudly concluded: "It was exciting - and I was as enthusiastic about it on my last day as I was on my first."

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