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What Is The Difference Between Law And Regulation?

What is the difference between Law and Regulation?


Law, or Primary Legislation in basic terms are statutory rules that we must all comply with or face prosecution. Law is passed by an Act of Parliament. In our animal rehabilitation world, there are several laws that we must comply with, not least the Animal Welfare Act and the Wildlife and Countryside Act. 


Subordinate to Primary Legislation are Regulations and Codes of Practices (CoP). Law passed by Parliament is written in very legal terms, to avoid doubt in its interpretation in a courtroom, whilst Law can only be amended by Parliament in a lengthy process.  Subordinate Regulations or CoPs, which provide more detail on how to comply with the law, can be updated and amended in a much simpler manner. 


A good example of Law and Regulations is the Highway Code. When we learn to drive, we are assessed on our knowledge of the Highway Code, not the Road Traffic Act, the Act does not tell us the rules of the road. The Highway Code details the rules we need to follow to be able to drive within the Law (The Road Traffic Act). If you are ever prosecuted for a road traffic offence, you would be prosecuted under the Road Traffic Act, not the Highway Code. 


Another example is the Health & Safety at Work Act, this states amongst others, that we must provide safe systems and safe places of work (this includes us, volunteers, and the public). In practice though how do we know what is required of us? Well, the subordinate Regulations and CoP provide us with more practical and detailed guidance, which we can follow to comply with the Law. For example, by following the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regs, the Manual Handling Operations Regs etc. Although most of the subordinate Regulation are not mandatory, it’s a minimum standard and so we would have to demonstrate to be achieving at least these standard to be in compliance with the Act.


So why is this all so important to us? Well in the wildlife rehabilitation world, we have plenty of mandatory Primary Legislation, if we don’t comply, we could face prosecution. However, we have very limited subordinate Regulations and CoP's, to help us follow to comply with the law. This lack of Regulations of CoP though is no defence in avoiding prosecution. The Law is mandatory, no if’s, no but’s.


This is where, in the absence of such Regulation or CoP, the Wildlife Care Badge is so important to us and rehabilitation organisations. Putting aside all the benefits to wildlife, raising standards, and helping each other etc, the Wildlife Care Badge provides our self-regulated Code of Conduct. By achieving the standard of the Wildlife Care Badge, we as individuals and organisations can demonstrate, through an auditable recorded process, an understanding of the relevant laws, that we are competent, and our facilities are suitable, all of this is assessed independently by professionals.


So, what if the rest of the UK puts into place Regulation such as that in Scotland, The Animal Welfare Establishment Licences Regulations (Scotland)? Well, the Wildlife Care Badge is still very relevant. The Scottish Regulations are a significant step in the right direction, and they are enforceable, however they fall short on several key aspects which are covered in the Wildlife Care Badge. 


Under these Regulations, a Licence can be issued when a series of checks are carried out by the Local Authority, against the conditions within the Licence. These conditions include adequate record keeping, the provision of a suitable diet, animal enrichment and enclosures, sufficient staff and that staff have been suitably trained. The Wildlife Care Badge, defined independently by professionals, would provide the evidence required by a Local Authority when considering issuing a Licence.


Above and beyond these Licence conditions, the Wildlife Care Badge independently demonstrates the competence of staff through a robust Knowledge Assessment, continued Accountability and amongst other measures, that rescue facilities have a detailed check and sign off process from a vet.


Therefore, the Wildlife Care Badge is a great tool we can use to both demonstrate compliance with our current Legislation, but also support any forthcoming Regulation.



Jon Beresford 20/12/23

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