Raeshaw Estate loses judicial review on General Licence restriction

In November 2015, the Scottish Government’s statutory conservation agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, imposed a General Licence restriction order on a number of estates where it was believed raptor persecution had taken place but there was insufficient evidence to prosecute any individual (see here).

These restrictions were the first to be imposed since this new enforcement measure became available on 1 January 2014.

Two of the four estates were in Stirlingshire (the grouse shooting Burnfoot Estate and neighbouring Wester Cringate Estate, where several poisoned raptors and an illegally-set trap had been found) and two were in the Scottish Borders (the grouse shooting Raeshaw Estate and neighbouring Corsehope Farm, where illegally-set traps had been placed).

The General Licence restriction on all four estates was to run from 13 November 2015 to 12 November 2018, which meant that certain types of ‘pest’ control were prohibited unless the Estates applied for a specific individual licence that would be subject to tighter controls.

Raeshaw Estate (and neighbouring Corsehope Farm, where ‘pest’ control is undertaken by Raeshaw gamekeepers) made a legal challenge against SNH’s decision and in February 2016 they petitioned for a judicial review.

A judicial review challenges a decision made by a public body (in this case SNH) and examines whether the right procedures have been followed (i.e. with procedural fairness, within the legal powers of the public body, and with rationality).

The judicial review was heard in January 2017 and we have been awaiting the court’s judgement. It was published yesterday and can be read here: Raeshaw judicial review decision

We don’t intend to discuss the details of the court’s judgement – you can read those for yourselves (but do pay attention to the bit about the homemade trap, identical to the illegally-set homemade trap placed out on the hill, found in the possession of one of the gamekeepers – it’s quite interesting), but in summary, the court decided that SNH had acted fairly and with due regard to the stated rationale for imposing a General Licence restriction as laid out in SNH’s framework for implementing restrictions. As we understand it, there is a right to appeal to a higher court so we’ll have to wait and see whether Raeshaw Estate decides to take this option.

For now, this judgement is very, very good news. We, and others, have been highly critical of SNH’s handling of the General Licence restrictions, particularly when they subsequently issued individual licences to Raeshaw and Corsehope which effectively circumvented the supposed sanction of the General Licence restriction (see here, herehere, here). Yesterday’s court judgement does not alter our view on that and we will continue to challenge SNH about the so-called ‘tighter controls’ on these individual licences.

However, what yesterday’s court judgement does (or should) do, is open the floodgates for further General Licence restrictions to be imposed on other estates where there is evidence of raptor persecution. We know that SNH has a backlog of cases, dating back to 2014, and they’ve been sitting on those, justifiably, while the judicial review process has been underway. Now that the Court of Session has validated SNH’s procedures for imposing General Licence restrictions, we hope they will get on with handing out some more.

UPDATE 11.30am: SNH press statement here

UPDATE 30 March 2017: Judgement on Corsehope Farm: Corsehope judicial review decision

20 thoughts on “Raeshaw Estate loses judicial review on General Licence restriction”

  1. Unless the individual licences are withdrawn the effect on the ground is meaningless as far as the raptors being killed, I believe.
    From what we have heard via RPUK, there is no effective monitoring.
    However, as the names of these estates will be in the public domain, there will be a huge upside if these restrictions are applied in the way I’d like.
    We know who they are, and they know we know.
    Soon the public and the media will know, I hope.

    1. General licences aren’t monitored but individual licences are. The applicants fill in a small form and report back after their activities have been completed.

  2. The protocol is in force to give landowner chance to cover up wrongdoing if any crime is suspected the first port of call should be the Police who are supposed to investigate and enforce the law without fear or favour

    [Ed: Paul, are you sure you’ve posted this on the right blog? Looks like you’re referring to yesterday’s blog about the PAW raptor sat tag protocol]

  3. Most disturbed that when I clicked the link to your wordpress blog, that it appeared with an ad for some device that may well be uk illegal. It was for a laser looking device with the text “you don’t need a gun, this tactical torch can blind a bear.”. Not sure of the mechanism for stopping this, but I found it a most loathsome stomach churning ad. Kind Regards Reg Oakley

    Sent from my iPad


    1. I get that filth, too, Reg. I think it’s “targeted advertsing” placed by robots or bots which are scanning blogs for certain repeated words and are dropping in adverts it thinks are relevant to your on-line viewing habits. I don’t know how to stop them but make sure you don’t click on any or you’ll be bombarded with similar horror for ever more!

  4. This news has been dampened by today’s response by SNH on the Rooks and Jackdaws which were killed under individual licence.
    I guess RPUK will be commenting on this later.

  5. I wouldn’t go as far as to say we shouldn’t regard this as good news, but it is a hollow victory in the sense that it makes absolutely no difference to the control of the listed so-called ‘pest’ species. Anyone who knows anything about the biology and behaviour of the species concerned knows that gamekeepers have some very easy means of circumventing (literally) the ban. We have allowed the primitive and crude control of predators and semi-predators to continue for long enough. Proper science and rationalism need to be applied.

  6. It is good news, well done to all who continue to shine the light in the murky corners.

    Oh that England would see reason and cause the carnage to stop by some exemplar ‘action’?

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