Legal challenge against hen harrier brood meddling continues, x2

Two separate High Court applications have been submitted this week, seeking a judicial review of Natural England’s highly controversial decision to issue a hen harrier brood meddling licence.

As a quick re-cap for new blog readers, in January this year, Natural England issued a licence to Jemima Parry-Jones (International Centre for Birds of Prey [ICBP], Newent, Glos) permitting the removal of hen harrier eggs and chicks from some nests on grouse moors in Northern England, to protect artificially-high stocks of red grouse being farmed for shooting. The licence permits the ICBP to rear the young hen harriers in captivity and then release them in August back to the same grouse moor areas from where they were removed, where they will once again be put at risk of being illegally killed.

This licence is fundamental to DEFRA’s hen harrier brood meddling plan, which forms part of its ludicrous Hen Harrier Action Plan. For background reading on hen harrier brood meddling, please see here.

The ICBP is being paid by the Moorland Association to undertake the brood meddling work, and the licence is supported by the members of the Hen Harrier Brood Meddling Project Board, which includes Rob Cooke (Natural England), Adrian Jowitt (Natural England), Steve Redpath (Aberdeen University), Jemima Parry-Jones (ICBP), Adrian Smith (GWCT), Philip Merricks (Hawk & Owl Trust), Amanda Anderson (Moorland Association), Robert Benson (Moorland Association).

In early February, lawyers acting on behalf of Mark Avery decided to challenge the lawfulness of Natural England’s decision to issue this licence by way of a judicial review. The lawyers agreed to work at reduced rates and Mark successfully raised over £26,000 via crowdfunding to support the legal action.

In late February Mark’s lawyers sent a ‘pre-action protocol letter’ to Natural England, outlining the perceived legal inadequacies of the decision to issue the licence. The letter also invited Natural England to revoke the licence and undertake a proper public consultation on the issue of hen harrier brood meddling.

In March the RSPB also sent a pre-action protocol letter to Natural England on the same issue.

Natural England’s response letters have been seen as unsatisfactory by Mark and by the RSPB and so yesterday Mark submitted an application to the High Court seeking permission for a judicial review, because, as Mark’s lawyer says,  “My client believes that the decision to grant this licence is unlawful as it is in breach of EU law – it takes criminal activity as its starting point and looks to ease the path for those who break the law, often for profit, for the purpose of shooting red grouse“.

Today the RSPB has also announced it, too, has submitted an application seeking a judicial review.

Good stuff.

There was an article in The Guardian yesterday about Mark’s application.

16 thoughts on “Legal challenge against hen harrier brood meddling continues, x2”

  1. One hopes that this succeeds. However can anyone answer a question for me, if a review is granted is the brood meddling suspended whilst the review is conducted? I assume it is but am not sure.

    1. Not sure about that, Paul, but when SNH was subject to a judicial review regarding the General Licence restriction on Raeshaw Estate, SNH did suspend the restriction for the duration of court proceedings. The restriction was then re-imposed on Raeshaw Estate after the judicial review found in SNH’s favour.

  2. Quoting from the Guardian article by Patrick Barkham yesterday in the Guardian.

    ‘According to Natural England, the brood management plan will reduce “the perceived conflict between hen harriers and grouse management and lead to a cessation in illegal persecution [of hen harriers]”’

    This point is very telling. If the grouse shooting industry i.e. the grouse moor owners, or their agents or tenants, have the ability to halt the illegal persecution and killing of Hen Harriers if they get their own way with brood meddling, then they have the ability to end the illegal persecution of Hen Harriers now. In other words the tacit implication of the Natural England statement, is that the illegal killing of Hen Harriers is controlled by those who own and run the shoots.

    Remember, that the narrative we are fed by the shooting industry is that Hen Harriers and other raptors are illegally killed and persecuted by rogue gamekeepers without the knowledge and instruction of the grouse moor owners. Therefore if illegally persecuting and killing Hen Harriers and raptors was something grouse shoot owners had no control off, then they would have no ability to stop Hen Harriers being illegally killed and persecuted, even with brood meddling.

    To allow Hen Harriers to lay eggs to be removed under this brood meddling programme, would mean allowing the Hen Harriers to do their courtship display and behaviour, and to build nests unhindered by gamekeepers. Remember, that the evidence is that a lot of Hen Harriers are killed before they get chance to lay eggs, and satellite tagged youngsters are being killed after they have fledged i.e. outside the period effected by brood meddling. In addition, even if the Hen Harriers have their eggs stolen, they would likely still remain on upland moorland for the summer period. Therefore to prevent the illegal killing of Hen Harriers, those killing them, would have to stop killing them before they nested, during summer, and after the chicks had fledged.

    Overall there are multiple inconsistencies in the assumptions and justifications for brood meddling. But most importantly it is all based on the tacit assumption, that in reality the grouse shooting industry themselves i.e. the shoot owners, tenants who run shoots, or higher level managers than gamekeepers, such as estate managers, have the ability to stop the illegal killing of Hen Harriers which often happens prior to their laying eggs and after the fledging of youngsters. If this is right, then these same shooting interests have the power to stop the illegal killing of Hen Harriers and other raptors now, and they are entirely culpable for this illegal wildlife crime, which is highly organized and widespread.

    What these tacit admissions mean, is that the authorities in this case NE, Defra and government ministers have known all along who controls the illegal killing of raptors, along with the GWCT, Moorland Association and gamekeepers associations. It says on the basis of this knowledge and tacit ability to stop the illegal persecution, that the authorities and the government should have been targeting those who own and run grouse moors, many years ago. That the government and the authorities should have appropriately toughened up legislation, and appropriate backing for the police to properly investigate and prosecute those behind this widespread, organized and illegal wildlife crime.

    1. Yet again spot on SteB1.
      What is so mind boggling is that even though a primary school child would see this immediately, it still got the go ahead. The maths don’t add up either as if it was a success the moors would be teeming with Hen Harriers within a decade (but no other raptors).
      Mark Avery’s lawyers nailed it with just 8 words
      ‘it takes criminal activity as its starting point’.
      In fact it protects criminal activity.

      1. I couldn’t agree more with you. None of these explanations about the whole issue of raptor persecution adds up. For some reason, when considering illegal raptor persecution, the authorities and government ministers just mysteriously forgot all the strategies they usually use to tackle persistent crime, which produces few prosecutions relative to the problem, and fails to deter the crime problem. Is there any other crime problem, which has been solved by giving the perpetrators what they wanted, and letting them participate as major parties in the supposed solution to the problem?

        1. It takes criminal activity as its starting point and end point.
          How Redpath and Parry-Jones can’t see this is staggering. I mean quite literally staggering. It is like being confronted with something that makes no sense whatsoever (like flat earth beliefs) and and yet intelligent people are acting as though it is perfectly reasonable, like some kind of Emperor’s New Clothes story but without coercion. Perhaps they are so desperate that they think what the hell nothing else works lets try this. Next it will be crystals and homoeopathy.

    1. Indeed it does say it all. Note the word perceived in the first line at the density that triggers brood management there is no damage to the number of red grouse available to shoot. Using the MA’s own grouse density figures it has been shown that grouse numbers are not affected until the harrier density is more than two pairs per 5000 acres or over thirty times more than the BM trigger density. They really will be getting their cake and eating it too if BM is allowed. To answer Barney below Peregrines are already almost totally failing to breed on grouse moors, if they were only restricted to such places they would already be gone.

      1. I know that Paul but I am relating to legal removal like as with Harriers, as you are well aware these bastards are never satisfied

  3. They have the best of both worlds here, legal persecution and illegal persecution, this equals no harriers on driven grouse moors which is what they have wanted all along. Will it be peregrines next when hen harriers are finished as a breeding bird in England

  4. Whatever the outcome of both cases (and I hope for a positive one), this high profile action keeps the issue in the public arena and that is good. It is another (sad in so far as it is necessary) chapter in the saga of wildlife crime in the uplands.

    Assume we win, it knocks the meddling back but the skeptic in me reckons they will almost certainly try again with a tweaked version?

    Can anyone definitively confirm or rebut the rumours that the scheme was being funded by ‘them’?

    We need to be writing to all and sundry about the best use of public money in defending the indefensible? Mark has crowd funded, one assumes ‘they’ will stand their own costs but the public will bear the court costs? Reasonable to assume that both sides will have applied for Protective Costs Order(s) but there is still potential public cost?

    1. ‘Can anyone definitively confirm or rebut the rumours that the scheme was being funded by ‘them’? ‘
      If RPUK says it then they have documentation. I saw it in one of the FOI requests as i recall.

      So when it succeeds (ha ha) and the chicks survive (ha ha) and they breed (ha ha) we have dozens of Hen Harriers (ha ha) all needing to be brood persecuted, who is going to pay for the hundreds of chicks (ha ha) soon to become thousands (ha ha)?
      Oh wait, before that time the killers seeing so many Hen Harriers sky dancing in the rainbows and sunshine over the purple heather are going to have an epiphany and realise how beautiful they are and how dreadful they have been and renounce their wicked ways and suddenly decide that Peregrines, Red Kites, Buzzards, Goshawks and eagles are quite nice too, then the film credits of the Walt Disney film roll and we all have a good cry at how wonderful the world really is and how brood persecution was the solution after all.

      ‘It takes criminal activity as its starting point’, middle point, fair to middling point and end point.

  5. This, if allowed, will surely shed light on what has gone on before. The question is how will locals on the ground operate – What we don’t know is whether the adults will be afforded any protection after that point, if that point is ever reached. The same applies to the brood on eventual release. It has all the hallmarks of a Mafia type protection racket. Maybe nationalising the moorland is the answer.

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