Convicted vicarious liability landowner loses nearly £66,000 in subsidies

cash pile 2In January we blogged about the subsidy penalty given to Ninian Johnston Stewart, the first landowner to be convicted under vicarious liability legislation in Scotland after his gamekeeper laid out poisoned bait that killed a buzzard in 2012. At the time of Johnston Stewart’s conviction we knew that he’d lost some of his agricultural subsidy but we didn’t know how much. The only information in the public domain was the following quote from his defence agent, David McKie, who was discussing Johnston Stewart’s (derisory) fine of £675:

He [Johnston Stewart] had already been penalised substantially via a high five-figure deduction to his Single Farm Payment“.

The size of his subsidy penalty has now been revealed in the latest edition of the RSPB’s Investigations newsletter, Legal Eagle:

In 2012, Johnston Stewart’s business received nearly £120,000 in Single Farm Payments. Under ‘cross-compliance’ there is a requirement to comply with a number of conditions in order to receive payments. The poisoned bait and buzzard were found on land used for agriculture by the business and consequently he lost nearly £66,000 of the 2012 payment“.

That’s a good result, although you have to question why his entire 2012 subsidy (nearly £120,000) wasn’t withdrawn.

In other subsidy penalty news, regular blog readers will be aware that we’ve been trying to find out (unsuccessfully so far) whether the Stody Estate (Norfolk) has also received a subsidy penalty, following the conviction of gamekeeper Allen Lambert for poisoning 11 raptors (10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk) in 2012 and a series of other related crimes (see here, here, here, herehere and here). According to our reckoning, Stody Estate has potentially breached two Statutory Management Requirements: SMR1 (intentional killing of wild birds) and SMR9 (use of pesticides).

Thanks to the determination of one of our blog readers, here’s the latest response from the Rural Payments Agency:

12 February 2015



Re: Freedom of Information – Information Request

Thank you for your request for information dated 15 January 2015 which has been dealt with under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).

To answer your questions:

1. Has the illegal poisoning of birds of prey carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate been reported to the RPA as a possible breach of Cross Compliance SMR1?

We can confirm that members of the public approached RPA following the media reporting of the prosecution, with several suggesting that SMR1 had been breached.

2. If the answer to the above question is yes, how many individuals have reported the potential breach to the RPA?

RPA can confirm that we have received e-mails from 20 individuals mentioning a possible breach in RPA regulations by the Stody Estate.

3. Is the RPA currently investigating a reported breach in cross-compliance at the Stody Estate relating to SMR1?

We previously answered a similar question in our response to you, reference XXXXX, and advised we do not hold any information that answers this question. RPA is obliged by European legislation to follow up these reports. We can assure you that RPA will take action, including cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy payments, if this is found to be appropriate.

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.

Yours sincerely

Rural Payments Agency

You’d think that it would be a lot easier for members of the public to find out how their taxes have been spent, or more importantly, whether they’ve been withdrawn from those involved with criminality, wouldn’t you?

8 thoughts on “Convicted vicarious liability landowner loses nearly £66,000 in subsidies”

  1. My initial reaction to the withdrawal was fantastic and of course it is but why on earth is this information not being publicised other than on this fantastic blog and in Legal Eagle .
    Surely it is better to shout this from the rooftops. Perhaps i am being naive and the tight knot community of criminal landowners are quietly soiling their breaches.

    Regarding the pathetic response from the RPA; it really is something out of Dickens
    ‘and advised we do not hold any information that answers this question’.

  2. Good news, but as you say the full £120,000 should have been withdrawn. Better still it should never be given in the first place. I for one don’t like my tax money being paid to these estates, if they can’t manage their ‘business’ without tax payers money, they should close down. (Our wildlife would be much saver)

  3. Let us hope that this is the first of many penalties for the raptor killers.

    DEFRA needs pressure now to get it to impose vicarious liability in England and Wales. Also to add the banned poisons to the “illegal to hold list”.

    An answer to J Pugh MP from Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Natural Environment and Science:
    I share Mr M…’s concerns about the persecution of raptors.

    As Mr M…. is aware the Scottish Government has introduced the vicarious liability (making landowners and their managers responsible for the activities of the staff) for certain offences I am employee or agent. The introduction of new regulation requires evidence that it will be effective and we are not aware yet aware of any prosecutions or any compelling evidence that introduction of the vicarious liability in Scotland has had a significant deterrent effect on those who persecute birds of prey. There are, therefore, currently no plans to introduce vicarious liability in England but we will continue to monitor the situation in Scotland and to consider this or a similar offence is necessary and proportionate to assist in tackling wildlife crime in England.

    I can assure Mr M…. that we are committed to ensuring the strict protection afforded to the wild birds of prey under wildlife legislation is effectively enforced. There is a robust legal framework for protecting such birds with strong penalties which can include imprisonment.

    The letter continues that:
    I make serious allegations and if I have evidence, I must bring it to the attention of my local wildlife crime officer.

    He finishes by writing:
    It should be noted that despite the poisoning and killing of birds of prey, populations of many species, such as the peregrine falcon, red kite and buzzard have increased. While a small minority is prepared to kill birds of prey and where possible these are brought to justice, this demonstrates that the policies in place to conserve these species are working.
    The point of “serious allegations” included the killing and disappearances of Hen Harriers on the Pennine Moors.
    Lord de Mauley, interestingly does not mention Hen Harriers.

    The previous Minister R Benyon, also stated to me that the making of the banned poisons illegal to hold was unnecessary because banning was sufficient.

    We need to pressure DEFRA to act against the criminals that kill our raptors and to make the penalties hurt them where it counts, in their pockets.

  4. Very good news! A late mini-birthdaypresent. And please keep on fighting for the hen harriers.

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