Giving evidence to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee this morning, the outgoing Chair of Natural England, Andrew Sells, said that he, personally (ie not as NE Chair), favoured the introduction of vicarious liability for wildlife crimes. He added that he was surprised that Defra had ruled it out.
Mr Sells did not have to say any of this, so it must be seen as a significant remark from a senior conservation figure, so close to government, to a parliamentary select committee.
NE’s lawyers might be interested in their outgoing Chair’s views ahead of 5 and 6 December when we all meet in the High Court to argue over the legality of issuing licences for brood-meddling of Hen Harriers.
Mr Sells said (something very much like – I don’t have shorthand so let’s all check exact wording tomorrow):
Coming from a long commercial background I can’t see why it [vicarious liability] shouldn’t apply on moors and in the countryside.
He also said:
I think we do need vicarious liability. You hit the boss – it works in other walks of life – but not it seems for gamekeepers.
Mr Sells also favoured (personally, not as Chair of NE – although he is Chair of NE) the ability to remove the general licence from shooting estates, thus removing their ability to kill crows, magpies etc. if there is evidence of illegal behaviour or non-compliance with codes of conduct. This, as with vicarious liability, is a measure that the Scottish government has introduced but which appears not to have been considered for England.
Mr Sells said quite a lot of other interesting things (I’m glad I caught the 06:16 from Wellingborough to go and listen) and I’ll write those up for 6pm today.