Phil Davies, a retired police Chief Inspector with Dyfed Powys Police who has been working for the last ten years as a Police Liaison Officer for the Countryside Alliance, has been booted off the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG).
In fact, he’s been removed from all of the wildlife crime priority delivery groups, according to Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly, Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU). He told me that Davies was removed on Thursday (21 October) after a brief conversation and that all those within the Priority Delivery Groups have been notified of the decision.
Davies’ removal is due to his participation in the now infamous hunting webinars, secretly recorded last year showing some of the UK’s leading hunting personnel discussing how to avoid prosecution for illegal fox hunting by creating ‘smoke screens’ and ‘elements of doubt’. The webinars were leaked to the public by the Hunt Saboteurs Association which led to a police investigation into the six webinar speakers, including Davies (see here). Only one speaker, Mark Hankinson, was prosecuted (and subsequently convicted earlier this month) but the judge’s damning commentary of Phil Davies’ contribution, and the investigating police officers’ reported frustration that Davies had avoided prosecution, had led to calls for him to be removed from the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (see here and here).
[Screengrab of some of the hunting webinar speakers, including Phil Davies who works as the Police Liaison Officer for the Countryside Alliance. Screengrab from material published by the Hunt Saboteurs Association]
The various Priority Delivery Groups have been established for the seven National Wildlife Crime Priorities (e.g. raptor persecution, badger persecution, bat persecution, CITES, freshwater pearl mussels, cyber-enabled wildlife crime and poaching) and the purpose of these delivery groups is ‘to progress the priority in relation to prevention, intelligence and enforcement’ (see here). That’s police-speak for getting on and finding ways of tackling wildlife crime and bringing the criminals to justice.
Of all these groups, the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group (RPPDG) is the least effective. In fact it’s achieved absolutely nothing of any use towards the protection and conservation of birds of prey in the UK in its 11-year existence, and that’s because the group includes organisations from the game-shooting industry, some of whose members have been/are still under police investigation for alleged raptor persecution. There are clear conflicts of interest, but those organisations have sat comfortably, with the support of DEFRA, happily disrupting and frustrating the efforts of the other organisations trying their best to make a difference (e.g. RSPB, Northern England Raptor Forum).
So Davies’ removal from the RPPDG, and in fact from all the PDGs, is a significant move and Chief Inspector Kevin Kelly deserves much credit for taking the opportunity and seizing it. Good riddance to Davies and kudos to the NWCU.
It’s plainly obvious that Davies is completely unsuitable to serve on any of these groups if the public is to have any confidence in the groups’ integrity, but it’s not just about an individual like Davies. He was there representing the Countryside Alliance and all the associated toxicity that comes with that.
With Davies gone, will the Countryside Alliance now simply be invited to send another representative (probably coached in the background by Davies) to join the RPPDG and the other wildlife crime PDGs, or has the mask finally slipped too far now for the Countryside Alliance to be viewed as anything other than malignant?
Let’s see what happens.