Wildlife conservation group Wild Justice has today launched a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for issuing what Wild Justice believes to be scientifically and legally flawed general licences.
If you subscribe to Wild Justice’s newsletter, you’ll already be aware of this news (you can subscribe to the newsletter, for free, here). Here is an excerpt from this morning’s newsletter about this latest case:
‘Today we have launched a legal challenge against the general licences issued by the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. This follows legal action we have taken over the last two and a half years against such licences in England and Wales. Those challenges have led to significant reforms and improvements (though there is more to do).
A recap on general licences: all wild birds are protected by law, that is the sensible starting point. Only for specific purposes (eg public health, protecting livestock, nature conservation) can authorities issue licences for killing species. Such licences, general licences because they are not person-specific, are published each year in each of the four UK nations. They specify which species can be killed for which purposes and what non-lethal means should be tried before lethal control is lawful. The conditions of the licences are rarely enforced and Wild Justice regards these licences as casual licences that permit casual killing of otherwise protected species on an unlimited scale. We’ll soon be letting you know how you can respond to the consultation by Natural Resources Wales on their general licences – we believe they are moving, too slowly, in the right direction.
DAERA’s general licences: DAERA’s general licences are, in our opinion, the worst in place anywhere in the UK. We have corresponded with DAERA since spring 2019, but most particularly several times and in detail this year, about the scientific and legal flaws in their licences. We were encouraged when DAERA issued a consultation on new general licences in July (see Wild Justice newsletter 68) but that consultation was mysteriously removed for reasons that have never been made clear. It looked to us as though DAERA was planning to make sensible changes to their licences and then abruptly changed their minds. We wonder whether they were put under pressure by vested interests.
What we have done: we have given DAERA every warning that they would face a legal challenge if they persisted with flawed licences. This week we have sent them a pre-action protocol letter in advance of seeking permission for judicial review of the legality of the licences. DAERA has two weeks to respond and in the absence of a satisfactory response we will move swiftly to lodge papers with the courts. We feel we have a strong case and this is an area of science and law in which we have been active for some time – we will pursue this case very robustly‘.
Wild Justice is a not-for-profit company and its three Directors (Chris Packham, Mark Avery, Ruth Tingay) work voluntarily to take legal cases and advocate for a better deal for wildlife. A crowdfunder has been launched to help support the costs of taking on this latest case. If you’d like to find out more about the challenge and help by making a donation, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
UPDATE 4th November 2021: Wild Justice secures funds for legal challenge of Northern Ireland’s General Licences (here)