I still await Defra’s response to my FOI/EIR request (too busy buzzard bothering?).
There are various interesting parts of NE’s response to my request.
As I read the NE response there is no hint that they ceased legal action because they found they were mistaken or their evidence was weak – they certainly don’t say that anyway. And they are quite clear that the Walshaw Moor Estate has not been required to remove any existing infrastructure that may have formed the basis of the alleged offences.
We may learn more about the interchange of views and information between Defra and NE when Defra gets around to replying to my FOI and EIR request but on the basis of NE’s reply we know that there were three meetings between a senior (Grade 3) Defra civil servant and NE which concerned (at least partly) Walshaw Moor and a telephone conversation and 10 emails. Despite NE’s witty remark that this level of discussion might seem low it actually seems quite high to me!
There is a long explanation from NE of why you and I cannot see Andrew Wood’s witness statement (Andrew Wood is a NE Director). This is not satisfactory and I do not agree with it. I have gone back to NE and repeated my request to see Andrew Wood’s witness statement on the following grounds.
The fact that NE have dropped its legal case against the Walshaw Moor Estate over alleged offences does not end this matter. It is open to any individual or organisation to take this case further, either by asking for a Judicial Review of NE’s decision or by taking a private prosecution against the Walshaw Moor Estate. Given the lack of clarity given by NE for why they dropped the case there may well be people thinking of these options.
Andrew Wood’s witness statement must have been a carefully produced document that was crafted with enormous care by himself and other NE staff since they would have envisaged it being part of a legal proceeding. It can therefore be considered to be a detailed, official and formal NE view on the matter. Such a view would be pertinent to any future legal case against NE or the Walshaw Moor Estate.
As a public body it would be wrong of Natural England to withhold this document from the public as it may prejudice others taking legal action against NE itself or against others. I would regard the non-disclosure of an existing, formal NE view on the Walshaw Moor case as being prejudicial to justice.
I have asked NE to respond to this request by the end of the week – it isn’t complex or unclear. May we see Andrew Wood’s witness statement please?