Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Wildlife Minister Dr Therese Coffey

The publication of the hen harrier satellite tag paper on Tuesday (here) that provided compelling evidence to highlight, yet again, the link between grouse moors and the illegal killing of hen harriers, has resulted in a flurry of responses from various individuals and organisations.

We’ll be looking at these responses in turn.

So far we’ve discussed the responses of Supt Nick Lyall (Chair, RPPDG) (here), and BASC (here).

This time we’re examining the response of the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at DEFRA, Dr Therese Coffey.

[Dr Coffey on a grouse moor with some devilled harrier kidneys (just kidding), photo by Dave Mitchell]

Before anyone gets excited, no, Dr Coffey wasn’t sufficiently embarrassed nor energised by the research findings to make a proactive, stand-alone statement about such devastating results; come on, this is the resolutely wilfully blind Dr Coffey who’s best known to us for her disinterested, apathetic responses whenever the issue of illegal raptor persecution is raised.

However, the paper was mentioned in a Westminster Hall debate on wildlife crime yesterday, at which Dr Coffey attended and spoke. The debate was broad ranging and quite interesting on a number of fronts – no time to go in to those details here but you can watch proceedings on this archived video here or read the transcript here. Well worth your time to see which MPs are not only clued up, but also which ones care about various aspects of wildlife crime. Useful info to have when the current Government implodes and you’re back in the voting booth.

The bit we’re most interested in, obviously, is Dr Coffey’s response to the issue of illegal raptor persecution. Here is the relevant part of the transcript, cut from the link above:

Raptor persecution is one of the UK’s wildlife crime priorities. All wild birds are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and there are strong penalties for those committing offences. In the five years up to 2017—the latest year for which data is available—there were 107 prosecutions for crimes against wild birds and 75 convictions. The police are leading efforts to prevent the persecution of birds of prey. I praise the work done by North Yorkshire police, particularly on Operation Owl, and I commend police and crime commissioner Julie Milligan in particular. She has been fundamental not only in that work, but in chairing the rural group of police and crime commissioners, she has also made hare coursing a key priority for work across a number of forces.

In addition to activity to disrupt and deter criminality, officers of the North Yorkshire police have worked to raise awareness about raptor persecution among local landowners and members of the public. Only through working in partnership with those living and working in rural communities can raptor persecution be combated. Despite instances of poisoning and killing of birds of prey, populations of many species, such as the peregrine, red kite and buzzard have increased. I fully recognise, however, that some species continue to cause concern.

The Government take the decline in the hen harrier population in England particularly seriously, and we are committed to securing the future of that iconic species. That is why we took the lead on the hen harrier action plan, which sets out what will be done to increase hen harrier numbers in England, including the trialling of brood management. In the recent judicial review into the lawfulness of Natural England’s decision to grant a licence for trials of hen harrier brood management, the claimants’ claims were dismissed. The proposed brood management scheme will continue. It seeks to manage the conflict between the conservation of hen harriers and the grouse shooting industry. That decision means the important work to protect and conserve the hen harrier can continue.

The hon. Member for Workington referred to an article that was published in a journal yesterday; I take that issue very seriously and will be seeking to meet the chair of the raptor persecution group, Superintendent Lyall, to go through it in detail. Although it is not for the Government to tell the police or the Crown Prosecution Service who they should be investigating and charging, we should take a proactive approach, particularly to stamp out the persecution of birds of prey“.


It’s good to see Dr Coffey recognising and applauding the recent efforts of North Yorkshire Police and their Operation Owl initiative and it’s very good to hear that she plans to meet Supt Nick Lyall, Chair of the RPPDG.

But hang on a minute, haven’t the devastating results of a peer-reviewed scientific study just been published in a high-ranking journal, detailing one of the most pressing wildlife conservation issues in the UK – the persistent illegal killing of hen harriers on driven grouse moors in northern England? And Dr Coffey, our Wildlife Minister, has nothing specific to say about those results?

That’s shameful.

Yes, the Westminster Government absolutely should be taking a “proactive approach” to stamp out the persecution of birds of prey, but it hasn’t and it isn’t. It’s as simple as that.

16 thoughts on “Responses to hen harrier satellite tag paper: Wildlife Minister Dr Therese Coffey”

  1. As you say shameful. Is this quote correct “there were 107 prosecutions for crimes against wild birds and 75 convictions”. Just wondered!

    1. The following is from the RSPB, which has been publishing figures for decades.

      “Birdcrime 2017 Appendices
 2017 Data summary Prosecutions

There were 25 reports of bird crime prosecutions (see also Appendix 4). These involved a total of 53 charges; 42 (79%) of these resulted in a guilty outcome. Fines for the year amounted to £10,790 and 8 individuals were given a prison sentence for their crimes (all were suspended sentences). In 2017 there were just four bird of prey persecution-related prosecutions. Three of these were discontinued, controversially, and only one was successful.” 

      These are from the whole of the UK. I might just write Dr Coffey and ask her for her source but she will take a month to reply.

        1. As it says, “Birdcrime 2017 Appendices
 2017”; one year. An important point is that the vast majority of these crimes are for taking eggs, holding captive wild birds and in one case, someone burned a crow to death.

          As it also says, “In 2017 there were just four bird of prey persecution-related prosecutions. Three of these were discontinued, controversially, and only one was successful”; In the whole of the UK. one bird of prey persecution-related prosecutions was successful, which seems less impressive than, “75 convictions”.

  2. “Strong penalties”? How laughable, anyone even slightly clued up on this should know the sentencing is absolutely awful and nowhere near enough to be a deterrent. And that’s for the very few that actually get to court and get a conviction.

  3. Oh to be a fly on the wall when Theresa Coffey and Supt Nick Lyall meet. Do you think she will be trying to rein him in? Look forward to reading Nick’s blog post meeting.

    The plight of the Hen Harrier is now clearly under the microscope in this country thanks to this blog et al. The number of HH nests in England each year is clearly known and recorded. The number of fledglings is known and they are named. Some chicks are satellite tagged by two different organisations. The effect and impact of persecution in England is clear, provable and demonstrable. The driven grouse shooting industry in England is under final notice and they know they are. Operate within the law at all times or go.

  4. It’s like listening to a clockwork toy, wind it up and it delivers the same shit time after time. I’m sick to the back teeth of listening to the talk of the saviour of harriers brood management, this is not going to work because there won’t be any harriers on private estates and any on land being run by rspb are not going to brood manage. These people must be either way out of touch with the issue or just plain thick

  5. The Westminster elite never will do anything about raptor persecution because so many are deeply involved in the game shooting industry and for some it is in their “genes”. Nothing will change until the whole feudal, landowning system is done away with.

  6. The supposedly highly impressive North Yorkshire PCC (but not for much longer) is so well known to the Roundup lady that she couldn’t even get her name right. She’s Julia Mulligan not Julie Milligan. I see that she sidetracked the HH debate onto the brood meddling scheme siding. She’s no doubt fully aware that it’s a diversionary tactic to make it appear that the Government is tackling the issue. Maybe we should at least be thankful that she recognises that there is a ‘conflict between the conservation of hen harriers and the grouse shooting industry’. Might this factor have invited a reference to the newly published report and data on Hen Harrier persecution? Apparently not! Or maybe her scribes were simply not up to speed.

  7. That the terrible Therese Coffey is not or was not up to speed on this may be typical but the question arises is this her or her officials, not that it matters a great deal both seem ill suited to the job they are ” doing” I too noticed the error in the name of the North Yorkshire PCC, a woman incidentally who decided she would rather have extra secretarial staff than a wildlife crime co-ordinator, so its not all positives with her either. I suspect DEFRA will barely acknowledge the Harrier paper unless pushed very hard to do so and will then just quote the “benefits” of their awful plan. Pathetic as that is.

  8. At least her one word answers to questions in parliament were honest.
    But the meaning is the same.

    ‘Minister do you give a shit about the most recent report on systemic raptor persecution on grouse moors?’

  9. She’s a disgrace to the Government. She doesn’t even have the savvy to try an explain away the satellite tag crisis, she is clueless and forced to completely ignore it hoping it will go away. How can she survive?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: