Wild Justice wins legal challenge against unlawful General Licences in Northern Ireland

In late October this year, conservation campaign group Wild Justice launched a legal challenge against the Northern Ireland Executive’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) for issuing what Wild Justice believed to be scientifically and legally flawed general licences (see here and here).

This came after months of protracted correspondence with DAERA, who decided to ignore all the legal and scientific arguments against the licences by simply re-issuing them in September.

Wild Justice launched a crowdfunder to support a legal challenge and the target was reached quickly (thank you to the many blog readers who supported this!) and formal legal action began.

Yesterday, literally on the eve of court papers being lodged, DAERA finally conceded that their General Licences are unlawful and will now have to begin the process of reforming them.

Wild Justice said:

The DAERA General Licences we challenged were not fit for purpose and were unlawful to boot. DAERA seemed to think that Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons threatened conservation interests in Northern Ireland – a totally bizarre idea. And yet it took a tiny organisation, supported by thousands of people, to raise the money and to hire brilliant lawyers to bring these flawed licences down. We look forward to seeing lawful replacement licences in the very near future. DAERA must do better and Wild Justice remains ready, willing and able to take further legal challenges on behalf of wildlife in the UK.”

Tom Short, one of Wild Justice’s lawyers from Leigh Day said:

Our client welcomes DAERA’s belated concession that its 2021 general licences are not fit for purpose. DAERA had blatantly, as in previous years, failed to follow the process it is required to, and had issued the licences absent any evidence to support them. That is not how a licensing system permitting the killing of otherwise protected wild birds should operate, and it is astonishing that DAERA has failed to engage with the problem since it was first raised by Wild Justice in May 2019. Our client welcomes DAERA’s commitment to now reform its licensing and move to full consultation on the issue.”

For further detail on this latest successful legal challenge please read the Wild Justice blog here.

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. If you’d like to make a donation to support their work please click here. If you’d like to receive news directly from Wild Justice please sign up for their free e-newsletter here.

9 thoughts on “Wild Justice wins legal challenge against unlawful General Licences in Northern Ireland”

  1. I wonder if little Timmy Bonner will be commenting on this? Ironically, he can’t help crowing every time the judiciary put their invitation to a shoot ahead of the law and justice, so we shall see (with apologies to those members of the judiciary who are not blinded by such things).

  2. This is a good victory, which should be celebrated for what it will achieve for birds covered by general licences in NI. Well done!

  3. Congratulations to Wild Justice, however I have to wonder how much money (both taxpayers and those who contribute to Wild Justice) could’ve been saved if DAERA had admitted at the outset that the there was a problem with their general licences instead of holding out until the last minute. Carry on the fight as DAERA may try to “solve” the problem by issuing new licences that have barely changed from the old ones and are still unfit for purpose.

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