It’s all about the puzzling tale of Rowan who was ‘likely to have been shot’ (see RPUK blog of 7 November, and my own of 11 November) – and now we know, as if we didn’t before (huh!), that he was shot.
RPUK have forensically examined the corpse of Rowan’s memory through a series of FoI requests to Natural England. These reveal the following sequence of events:
- 22 October Rowan found dead
- 26 October post mortem establishes Rowan was shot
- 27 October Cumbria police launch investigation
- 28 October Hawk and Owl Trust and Natural England issue statement saying that Rowan is dead and the police are investigating but not that Rowan was shot
- 31 October Westminster Hall debate on banning driven grouse shooting
- 3 November Cumbria Police send draft press statement to NE saying that Rowan was shot
- 3 November NE staff pass the press statement up the management line for checking
- 7 November NE and HOT still discussing the press release
- 7 November press release goes out with the word ‘shot’ changed to ‘likely to have been shot’.
That form of words, ‘likely to have been shot’ was so bizarre that it set alarm bells ringing immediately one read them. Was it shot or not? Let’s see the X-ray!
And we still need to see that X-ray to see how tricky and difficult an assessment it was to decide that Rowan had been shot. I’m sure it will emerge soon.
You’ll notice that these events spanned the time when our MPs debated the future of driven grouse shooting and where precious little attention was paid to the fact that Hen Harriers are likely to be shot (or trapped or occasionally poisoned) when visiting driven grouse moors. It would have been more difficult for MPs and particularly the minister Therese Coffey to sweep all that wildlife crime under the carpet had the original press statement said that Rowan had been shot – a statement released promptly after the post mortem and three days before the debate.
But the delay between 3 November and 7 November, and the discussions between senior NE staff and the Chair (Philip Merricks) and others in the Hawk and Owl Trust in that period, look likely (what a useful word that is!) to have been the source of the inelegant wording. And this is despite the Police being perfectly happy with the word ‘shot’.
Why the Hawk and Owl Trust Chair might want to muddy the waters about the demise of a Hen Harrier whose satellite tag his own organisation had funded is beyond me but Philip is known not to be an eco-zealot. He was probably just trying to get the wording perfect. So it’s odd that a wildlife NGO would allow a press statement to go out that was so imperfectly worded.
And why would NE senior staff, who are essentially an arm of Defra and its ministers, be happy with such vague and imprecise wording on a subject close to ministers’ hearts? It’s a real conundrum!
Who were the ‘likely’ lads?
Let’s see that X-ray soon, please!
And meanwhile, hats off to RPUK!! Great work guys! If it weren’t for you we still wouldn’t be able to say, three months later, that Rowan was shot – but he was, and we can, thanks to you.