Stody Estate receives £221,000 subsidy penalty for mass raptor poisoning

stody buzzardsRegular blog readers will know that in October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert was convicted of a series of wildlife crime offences on the Stody Estate, Norfolk, including the mass poisoning of birds of prey (10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk) which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides and other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’) and a firearms offence (see here and here).

Lambert got off pretty lightly when he was sentenced in November 2014. Even though the judge acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes had passed the custody threshold, Lambert received a 10-week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six-week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and dead buzzards (suspended for one year) and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge. In our opinion (see here), this was absurdly lenient for one of England’s biggest known mass raptor poisoning incidents, and on top of that, Lambert wasn’t even sacked – it was reported that he’d been allowed to take early retirement from the Stody Estate.

Regular blog readers will also know that for the last year, we’ve turned our attention to the minted Stody Estate to try and find out whether the Rural Payments Agency had penalised the estate for breaches in cross-compliance and had removed any of their £MILLIONS of agricultural subsidies as punishment. To receive these tax-payer handouts, estates must comply with a number of measures (like don’t poison raptors) and if they don’t comply, then cross-compliance subsidies can be removed.

It’s taken a while to get any useful information about potential subsidy penalties at Stody Estate. Getting the RPA to reveal anything about this case has been like getting blood out of a stone, or the truth out of Allen Lambert. The RPA has wriggled and squirmed and done its best to avoid answering straightforward questions: see here for previous blogs about our correspondence with the RPA. However, we’re pretty much there now, although not quite there.

Our latest FoI received a response this week. We had asked the RPA (again) whether they’d now enforced a cross-compliance penalty on Stody Estate. They answered: “Yes“.

We asked what the penalty was for, exactly. They answered: “The penalty that has been applied was for a breach of farmer requirement A1, of the pre-2015 Statutory Management Requirement 1 (wild birds). The requirement reads: ‘You must not intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird‘”.

We asked how much was the penalty applied to Stody Estate for this breach. They answered: “The financial amount has yet to be confirmed, however the penalty is 75% of the Single Payment Scheme payments made to the Estate in 2014“.

So, we now know a penalty has been imposed, but, unconvincingly, the RPA still claims it isn’t able to tell us how much that penalty is. Either they’re incompetent or unwilling to embarrass the Estate. Or maybe both.

Anyway, we’ve done a bit of digging. We’ve discovered that the Stody Estate received £295,929.01 from the Single Payment Scheme in 2014:

Stody SPS 2014 - Copy

75% of £295,929.01 is £221,946.75.

That’s a massive subsidy penalty! As far as we’re aware, this is the biggest ever civil penalty imposed for cross-compliance breaches in relation to raptor persecution crimes. Previously, the largest was £107,000 imposed on Glenogil Estate in 2008 following the discovery of 32 poisoned baits suspected of being used to target birds of prey (see here). Earlier this year, we blogged about the £66,000 subsidy penalty imposed on vicarious liability landowner Ninian Johnston Stewart, whose gamekeeper had been convicted of poisoning a buzzard (see here).

There may well have been other cases where a penalty greater than £221,946.75 has been imposed for cross-compliance breaches related to raptor persecution, but we’ve been unable to find any information. We’ve blogged previously (here) about why increased publicity is needed when these penalties are applied – the realistic threat of having thousands of pounds worth of subsidies removed from your business has got to be a far greater deterrent than the pathetically weak sanctions handed down in the criminal courts.

For this reason, over the next few months we intend to re-visit some other recent cases where a successful conviction has been secured for raptor persecution crimes and start asking some questions about whether those estates involved have also received a subsidy penalty (e.g. Kildrummy Estate, Cardross Estate for a start, and there are others).

There has previously been some discussion in the comments section of this blog about whether the new system for the Single Payment Scheme (replaced this year by the Basic Payment Scheme) would still allow for subsidy penalties for cross-compliance breaches relating to raptor persecution. Some readers thought the new system wouldn’t allow for penalties and other readers thought it would. It’s our understanding that the cross compliance rules for BPS in England still contain a Statutory Management Requirement (SMR) for Wild Birds (SMR2) stating that you must protect all wild birds, their eggs and their nests, so technically any recipient of BPS could still be fined for non-compliance with SMR2 if they were liable, vicariously or otherwise, for raptor persecution on their land.

However, the new system seems to be slightly different in Scotland where SMR2 states that you must protect all wild birds, their eggs and nests if you have land classified as a Special Protection Area. That could mean that a Scottish recipient of BPS could only be fined for breaching SMR2 if the breach took place in an SPA. If that interpretation is correct, it would exclude rather a lot of land. We’ll be seeking clarification from the Scottish Government about whether raptor persecution on non-SPA land would be considered a breach of the new SMR2.

A final word – thank you to all the blog readers who have exerted pressure on the RPA over the last year regarding the Stody Estate case; we know that a number of you have been involved. Had it not been for this sustained effort, the Stody Estate may well have escaped a penalty altogether, or perhaps been given a much smaller penalty. Well done!

Photo of some of the poisoned buzzards found at Stody Estate is by Guy Shorrock (RSPB Investigations)

24 thoughts on “Stody Estate receives £221,000 subsidy penalty for mass raptor poisoning”

  1. This is brilliant news and I hope that our combined pressure helped it to happen. I really didn’t think would happen for an English Estate!

    I just hope it is not overturned in any appeal.

  2. After a week in which the news has been released of the killing of two peregrines and a hen harrier, and that high court judgement, it’s great to hear some good news for conservation. Well done, and keep up the good work.

  3. Hope this doesn’t turn out to have been too good to be true, but so far great news! Not acceptable that it was so difficult to access information in the public interest. Slight digression, but cracking wee series ‘Loch Lomond: A Year in the Wild’ has started on channel five, you can get it on 5 Demand. Made a couple of strong comments about persecution affecting red kites in the past and golden eagles now, came as a pleasant surprise when the subject is too often treated with far too much delicacy in wildlife documentaries. Can’t see those comments being made on a BBC 1 prog. Good series worth catching.

    1. Just watched second episode of this series…fantastic! Large segment on Hen Harrier and pushed the message that it is suffering from very serious persecution. Showed a chick whose mother had been shot being ‘fostered’ into another hen harrier nest. Also how pine marten comeback is helping red squirrels by eating greys, and again stressed that the marten has been persecuted by gamekeepers. Then a piece on how beavers in the river Earn are creating valuable wildlife habitat. This would really, really piss off the Burnetts and Richardsons in the field sports sector! Did RPS have a hand in the script I wonder? Dam shame this is tucked away on a Channel 5, on prime time STV or BBC 1 would have reached far more people. Why is such honesty re persecution muted in standard wildlife programmes? Please watch ‘Loch Lomond: A Year in the Wild’ – a breath of fresh air.

  4. Good news indeed about the Stody Estate. More strength to your elbow. You all deserve the gratitude of so many of us. Keep up the good work and the pressure on the law-breakers.


    Ron Kinrade


  5. it is a disgrace they are getting that much of a handout to start with. If we ever needed to ask who the real scroungers are in this country, we now know; it is the landed gentry. Always with their hand out, greedily snatching everything going and then getting fat on it. No doubt this sanction will be appealed too, and probably reduced or even rescinded.

  6. Fantastic news, RPS. Give us the heads up next time we can put pressure on like this – even though my emails got nowhere, I suppose it all adds to the pressure. Hope they don’t appeal – surely they couldn’t overturn this in Alan Lambert’s case?

  7. Worth looking at the Scottish Govt’s pages on cross compliance breaches here –, in particular the bit that says that the standards of proof for a cross compliance breach are lower than those for a criminal prosecution. So let’s say for example that a keeper is taken to court for illegal trapping of raptors but the evidence is deemed inadmissible and the case is chucked out, the subsidy recipient could still be fined part of their SPS/BPS if a cross compliance breach was found. I assume that the same applies for England but no been able to confirm this yet. Food for thought anyway…

    1. Cross compliance is civil law in England too, so, like Scotland, it’s on the ‘balance of probability’ not ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’.

  8. I have it on good authority that the fine is not 6 figure. I’ve not been told the actual amount, but could it be they got 75% of their money and the letter was misleading.

  9. Well, this is good news – too good in fact and sorry, but I don’t believe it. It will, no doubt transpire over the following weeks or months that there will be “reviews” judicial or otherwise, appeals, revisions and Mr Justice Cocklecarrot aided by sundry lecturers in human rights, will probably find that Stody has been unfairly penalised and is due, not only the original amount but a substantial amount of damages to boot.

    1. There seems to be some confusion about this, as RPA stated the penalty would be “75% of Single Payment Scheme”, which doesn’t include additional agri-environment payments. We (and others) have asked the RPA to clarify the amount….we’ll probably have to wait for another 20 working days to hear anything.

  10. For 2015 onwards, cross compliance in England doesn’t protect all wild birds, their nests and eggs. The heading on p. 39 of the handbook is wrong. The list of Schedule 1 birds is irrelevant too. The only rules that apply concern land classed as a SPA. In particular, ‘you must not intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage the special interest features of the area or disturb any bird that is a special interest feature.’ The ‘special interest features’ of an area are interpreted as the notified interest features of the SSSI that are also relevant to the SPA. So, I read this as unless your bird is listed on the relevant SPA citation, cross compliance won’t protect it. I wouldn’t have thought nests would be protected either; eggs maybe. I’m assuming S28P(6) & (6A) WCA81 enforces these rules as opposed to the 2010 Habitats Regulations.

    1. I agree that the wording is misleading however SMR2 does clearly state ‘You must protect all wild birds, their eggs and nests.’ This is basically the law set out by Wildlife and Countryside Act. It then goes on to say that ‘Extra rules apply if you have land classified as a SPA’ and then sets out what they are under the heading What you must do. My reading is that compliance with the Wildlife and Countryside Act is still required to receive BPS. I might well write to RPA and ask them for clarification.

      1. Sure Rob, that’s a good idea.

        What we can see ourselves though is that SMR 1 Wild birds last year was based on Article 3(1), Article 3(2)(b), Article 4(1), (2) and (4) and Article 5(a), (b) and (d) of the wild birds directive (see Annex II of R. 73/2009)

        But this year, SMR 2 Wild birds is based only on Article 3(1), Article 3(2)(b) and Article 4(1), (2) and (4) of the wild birds directive (see Annex II of R. 2013/1306)

        Article 5(a), (b) and (d) is no longer part of the wild birds SMR under the reformed CAP. This article is transposed in section 1 of WCA81.

        Those rules were in the cross compliance handbook from last year (see p. 43):!OpenDocument

        But they are absent from this year’s cross compliance handbook (see p. 39):

        But, would be good to get confirmation concerning the apparent errors (hangovers from the previous text of the handbook and appendices).

  11. I live in a house which is rented by Stody Estate and am appalled at what they get away with. XXXXX XXXXX XXXXX 3 of my cats who have disappeared off into the fields at the back of the house here and never came home. One woman here in Hunworth had her cat coming home with a bullet in him. The estate manager a while back threatened to shoot the dogs if he sees them walking on the estate lands (dog walker told us this) and the area out the back of our home which is apparently private Stody land … where we used to walk our dogs and was a footpath at one time …. has now been cordoned off with new signs on wooden sticks saying ‘conservation area no public access’ …. and yet they cut down all the grass recently there and allowed loads of cars to park there for some kind of function on a Sunday. The load on their sugar beet lorries starting at 6.0am in the morning disturbing everyone in Hunworth … and I hear shooting going on all of the time in the back woods even still … and it is April 2016. Once a group of men with guns arrived on a trailer and started shooting birds just behind our back garden and one even peed on the grass in full view of all of us looking out the window … anonymous

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