Statement from Wild Justice (18th January 2021):
Further success on General Licences – this time in Wales
Earlier this morning, His Honour Justice Jarman handed down his judgment on Wild Justice’s judicial review of Natural Resources Wales’s general licences. His judgment further limits the casual killing of birds under general licences and has implications for general licences in other parts of the UK.
Wild Justice is delighted at the content of the judgment, and its implications, even though the judge did not go as far as saying that the current licences are unlawful.
The judgment: The Wild Justice challenge of the Welsh general licences concerned the circumstances under which the licences can lawfully be used. And our main concerns were about the conservation licence (GL004) which authorises the killing of four corvid species (Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw and Jay) for the purpose of conserving wild birds.
The judgment considered the following; ‘For example, carrion crows, of which there are about 20,000 pairs in Wales, prey upon the eggs and chicks of ground nesting birds, such as curlews, of which there are less than 400 pairs left in Wales‘ and later stated ‘Thus, in the example given above NRW accepts that the relevant licence (004) should be used only to kill crows during the months between egg laying and when the chicks are well grown, namely April to July, and only in those areas where curlews nest, which do not extend to urban areas. It should not permit someone to kill a crow in the autumn or in an urban area on the basis that that bird might someday at some place take a curlew’s egg or chick‘.
In other words, you can only kill Carrion Crows under this licence where the Carrion Crows are a present danger to species of conservation concern – in those places at those times. Wild Justice believes that this is a highly significant and very welcome clarification.
Justice Jarman further wrote ‘Written evidence was filed on behalf of WJ by one of its directors, Dr Mark Avery, on behalf of NRW by one of its managers Dr Sarah Wood, and on behalf of BASC by Glyn Evans, one of its heads. Whilst there was some disagreement between Dr Avery and Dr Wood, there was little if any difference between them on how the licences given for the purposes stated in them should work in practice. Mr Wolfe [counsel for Wild Justice] made it clear that WJ welcomed such clarification but submits that these clarifications should have been expressly imported into the wording of the licences. He points to the fact that Mr Evans interprets the licences more widely than NRW, and submits that that is a cogent reason why the licences should specify the circumstances of their use in greater detail‘.
In other words, the licensing authority (NRW) agrees with Wild Justice that the licence should only be used where there is a ‘present risk’, and the court agrees with us both, but BASC had a different view which was rejected by the court.
For further commentary on this judgement and what Wild Justice suggests should happen now, please read this piece on Wild Justice’s blog.