On 1st October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert from the Stody Estate in Norfolk was found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk, which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides & other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’), and a firearms offence (see here and here).
On 6th November 2014, Lambert was sentenced. Even though the magistrate acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes passed the custody threshold, he only received a 10 week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and nine poisoned buzzards (suspended for one year), and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.
On 5th October 2014, we blogged about the millions of pounds worth of subsidies that had been awarded to Stody Estate in recent years (see here) and we encouraged blog readers to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask whether Stody Estate would receive a financial penalty in the form of subsidy withdrawal for being in breach of the terms & conditions of their subsidy-fest.
On 10th October 2014, the RPA responded by saying they would consider what action could be taken against Stody Estate (see here).
Then it all went quiet.
One of our blog readers decided to submit an FoI to the RPA in December 2014, to see what was going on. Here is his letter:
12 DECEMBER 2014
To whom it may concern
I am making this request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.
The information I request relates to the conviction in October 2014 of Mr Allen Lambert, a gamekeeper employed by the Stody Estate, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2ER for illegally poisoning ten buzzards and a sparrowhawk.
I would be grateful if you could provide me with all the information you hold relating to the following questions:
- Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.
- Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.
- Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.
I look forward to hearing from you.
On 14th January 2015, the RPA responded with this:
14 JANUARY 2015
Dear XXXXX XXXXX
Re: Freedom of Information – Information Request
Thank you for your request for information dated 12 December 2014 which has been dealt with under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).
You have asked:
‘1. Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.’
‘2. Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.’
‘3. Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.’
Having considered your request we regret that we are unable to provide you with any meaningful response as we do not hold any information that answers your questions. However, RPA would like to make clear that it is required to assess cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy claims based on intent, extent, severity, permanence and repetition of the non-compliance. We can assure you that RPA will take action, including cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy payments applicable, if this is found to be appropriate.
In order to qualify for most CAP subsidy payments, claimants are required to keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition and comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). This is known as cross compliance. One of the SMRs covers wild birds (SMR 1) and this includes a rule about killing, injuring or taking wild birds.
Further information is published on the GOV.UK website (Page 43 – deals with wild birds).
If you are not happy with the way we have handled your request, you can ask for an internal review. These requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Access to Information, Rural Payments Agency, North Gate House, 21-23 Valpy Street, Reading, RG1 1AF.
Rural Payments Agency
Not very helpful, is it?
Thanks to the blog reader who followed up with the FoI and shared the response with us. We understand the RPA can expect further FoIs until a satisfactory response is received. Watch this space….
Meanwhile, you might be interested to compare Lambert’s pathetic sentence with that of an anti-badger cull protester. Lambert was given a 10 week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 costs for the mass poisoning of protected birds, the illegal storage of banned poisons and a firearms offence. The badger cull protester, who breached the terms of an injunction designed to stop him disrupting badger culls (he filmed someone involved with the cull and stood outside the NFU office wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘FCK NFU’), was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs that could amount to £55,000 (see here). The first installment of £25,000 is due on 1st May. A crowd-funding page has been set up for those who want to help – see here.