Licences to kill buzzards: judicial review decision expected tomorrow

High Court London 2The long-running legal battle about Natural England’s refusal to issue a gamekeeper with licences to kill buzzards and sparrowhawks to ‘protect’ his pheasants is due to reach a climax tomorrow.

Northumberland gamekeeper, Ricky McMorn, backed by financial support from the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, brought a judicial review to challenge Natural England’s decision. The judicial review took place in the High Court (London) over three days in June 2015 and the decision was deferred. We understand the decision is due to be announced tomorrow.

A quick re-cap:

In 2013, Natural England secretly provided Mr McMorn with a licence to destroy buzzard eggs and nests in order ‘to protect a pheasant shoot’ in Northumberland.

Later in 2013, McMorn submitted four more licence applications to Natural England, this time to shoot 16 buzzards and 3 sparrowhawks. Natural England rejected the application.

In 2014, McMorn submitted another licence application, this time to shoot ten buzzards “to prevent serious damage” to pheasant poults. Natural England rejected the application.

We’ve blogged extensively about this issue (see here for a summary).

It’s worth noting that the judicial review concerns whether Natural England acted fairly when rejecting McMorn’s licence applications. McMorn has argued that Natural England has unlawfully acted inconsistently in the way it has dealt with the licensing of buzzards as compared with other species of bird and that Natural England has been unlawfully influenced by public opinion. He has also argued that it was unreasonable for Natural England Directors repeatedly to reverse the recommendations of Natural England’s specialist scientific advisers that a licence should be granted.

The review is NOT about whether DEFRA/Natural England should entertain a licence application from a gamekeeper with a previous conviction for possession of banned poisons (apparently that’s not a problem, according to DEFRA/Natural England), nor whether the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation should expel a member with a conviction for possession of a banned poison (apparently not, according to the NGO), and nor whether there’s any scientific evidence to demonstrate that buzzards (and sparrowhawks) have a substantially detrimental effect on game bird shoots (there isn’t any evidence).

Tomorrow’s long-awaited decision will no doubt be interesting, whichever way it goes.

9 thoughts on “Licences to kill buzzards: judicial review decision expected tomorrow”

  1. When R Benyon was Minister for DEFRA and he wanted to have a “cull of buzzards study”,at our expense, I questioned him about banned poisons and why possession in England and Wales was not illegal? His answer was that ….banning the use of….. was sufficient.

    So was Mcmorn’s conviction for possession or something else? Or was Benyon incorrect in his answer to me.

  2. I don’t get it? How can an unelected quango be “unlawfully influenced by public opinion”? Especially when said public opinion backs the fact that killing buzzards and sparrow hawks is unlawful?

  3. Andy Wightman has written an excellent book called “The Poor Had No Lawyers” explaining how the land in Scotland was appropriated [stolen is a more truthful word] by the powerful using the laws they made for themselves. Time someone wrote “The Raptors Had No Lawyers”…commonsense and scientific study have no chance against a biased legal system weighted in favour of landowners…

      1. That pretty much sums it up Dave (sgt)……………………….we can only hope that the continued publishing the true scale of whats going on (industrial scale killing of protected wildlife) may eventually have a positive result.

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