What Wild Justice says about the General Licence issue

The Natural England decision to revoke the long-standing General Licences came out of the blue for Chris Packham, Ruth Tingay and me (the three co-directors of the not for profit company, Wild Justice) as it did for everyone else. We had no warning of what they were going to announce beforehand (which I think was a bit rude of them really considering how tenderly we have treated them, but that’s a small thing).

Since Tuesday at 4pm, the three of us have been responding to media enquiries, talking to our lawyers, monitoring events as best we can and trying to understand what Natural England is doing.

We aren’t the only ones trying hard to figure out what the changes mean and when they will arrive. And I guess that because of the confusion surrounding much of this issue Wild Justice’s views and actions have often been misrepresented and misconstrued.

So this blog post is a bit of a resource to which we can refer commenters in the general public, the media and in land-managing organisations to correct some common misapprehensions. In particular it provides the links to the broadcast media where in our own words, and largely unedited, we speak our minds and lay out our own views.

Here is a FAQ:

Q: Why have you forced NE to change the law?

A: the law hasn’t changed. The law today is the same as it was on Tuesday morning and the same as it was 10 and 20 years ago. But NE and its predecessors (and perhaps statutory agencies in other UK countries – we haven’t got into that yet) have been operating an unlawful licensing system. That’s why Marian Spain, Interim Chief Exec of Natural England, said ‘the licences were unlawful’ on Farming Today on Friday morning. Anyone complaining about the changes to the licensing system that are being brought in needs to appreciate that they may have ‘benefited’ from decades of lack of clarity over what the law says and they may have been committing unlawful acts unknowingly (or perhaps knowingly).

Q: Why did you make Natural England revoke the licences so abruptly and cause so much chaos?

A: we didn’t. Our legal case for judicial review called for Natural England to admit the illegality of the (now former) licensing system and to undertake not to introduce a similarly unlawful system on 1 January 2020 when the current (now former) licensing ran out.

Q: But you knew that this was all going to blow up at this inconvenient time of year for land managers.

A: no we didn’t. The legal process required us to do various things before 1 April (three months after NE issued the General Licences (now revoked) for 2019. We sent the first formal legal papers to NE on 13 February. After that, the timing was determined by the (slow) pace of NE’s responses and their (ultra-rapid and sudden) announcement of the revocation of the licences. None of that was under our control. See a previous blog which lays out the chronology.

NE could have admitted that things had to change on 14 February or any time after that, or they could have decided to fight us all the way through the judicial process in which case we might have ended in court in the autumn. And we might have won or lost the challenge.

So, no we didn’t know when this would all play out. And to be perfectly frank, whenever it had come there would be the same howls of protest from those affected, particularly because NE chose the ultra-rapid revocation route and then have been poor to communicate what is actually happening.

Q: why are you seeking to end all pest control when farmers and landowners need it?

A: we aren’t.

We don’t like the term ‘pest’ because it is often used to denigrate a whole species, eg Carrion Crows, when the law allows some Carrion Crows to be killed under specific circumstances not because they are ‘vermin’, ‘pests’ or have any less protection than other species. But, moving on from that matter of nomenclature…

We recognise that it is reasonable, as a last resort, and under some specific circumstances, to carry out ‘pest’ control – that’s what the law says (and it hasn’t changed) and we aren’t seeking to change it and we accept it.

We expect, though, the licensing system to be fit for the purpose of allowing lawful ‘pest’ control and not allowing casual killing of species that somebody somewhere has decided they don’t like or which can be ‘pests’ under some circumstances but not under all circumstances.

Q: You lot are just anti-field sports, anti-shooting and anti-country people aren’t you?

A: no. the General Licences apply to many aspects of life not just shooting and are exercised in towns as well as the countryside. And the views of the three Wild Justice co-directors on shooting of gamebirds are not exactly identical. But whatever our views are that doesn’t affect the legal outcome of this case – we pointed out that the statutory wildlife agency for England was operating an unlawful wildlife-killing licensing system and we were right.

Q: you must be ashamed of what you have done.

A: no, we are pleased to have won our first legal challenge and shown that a statutory body was operating an unlawful bird-killing licensing system. This challenge will, we hope, make statutory bodies more careful about how they administer wildlife laws. We are grateful to over 1100 supporters for voluntarily funding this legal challenge and we are grateful for all the messages of congratulation we have received.

Q: what’s next for Wild Justice?

A: don’t worry, we’ll let you know.

We will monitor and assess Natural England’s response to this challenge as it unfolds. We expect they will be quite careful but we cannot rule out further legal action on this subject (though none is planned at the moment). We will be looking particularly carefully at issues around killing Woodpigeons, or indeed Rooks, not for any of the lawful reasons allowed under the legislation but for food consumption (see here) and at the scientific basis of any new licenses which purport to license bird killing for the protection of fauna or flora (see here for some thoughts).

We have had discussions with senior police officers about hare coursing and we are planning meetings with other organisations on this subject – indeed, one was planned for Thursday but was postponed because of changes to plans caused partly by the NE General licence announcement. We can already see that our view on hare coursing is rather similar to that of many other countryside organisations – we might well end up working together on it.

Resources:

Wednesday 25 April – Statement by Wild Justice on winning their legal challenge.

Wednesday 25 April – the chronology of the Wild Justice legal challenge.

Wednesday 25 April – Mark Avery talks on Farming Today about the General Licence legal challenge (last 5 minutes of programme)

Wednesday 25 April – Mark Avery talks on the Today programme about the General Licence legal challenge (last 10 minutes of programme)

Wednesday 25 April – Mark Avery talks on Jeremy Vine show about the General Licence legal challenge. (about 35 minutes in)

Thursday 26 April – Pigeon Pie and the General Licences

Friday 27 April – Songbird Science

Friday 27 April – Mark Avery talks on Steven Nolan show Radio 5Live about General Licences about an hour and 25 minutes into programme

Saturday 28 April – Mark Avery talks to BBC Radio Somerset about General Licences (from about 08:06 after Credence Clearwater revival)

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52 Replies to “What Wild Justice says about the General Licence issue”

  1. I'd be interested to know if Wild Justice would be interested in ignoring certain wild life crimes openly committed as an act of civil disobedience? It might be a good way to encourage more people, including hunts to flout the law with impunity.

    I appreciate it's important for various laws to be enforced but it can also be important for laws not to be enforced where they don't make sense because their application would run counter to their spirit.

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    1. G - I don't think that the three of us have developed a well-honed line on that. We know we could do hundreds of things in theory but not even dozens of things in practice. So we'll look at the options - and we have some ideas for future action.

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      1. I'm really talking about further inaction rather than further action. Action is all very well and good but what you don't do can also be important. Inactions can also run alongside actions. Please therefore give some thought as to what laws you will seek to allow people to break as well as what laws you will seek to prevent people breaking.

        NOT enforcing the law when certain wildlife crimes are openly committed can be just as much a political act as seeking to enforce it when other crimes are committed.

        What I'm proposing is that you completely ignore dogs being used to illegally manage wildlife when it is done in a non lethal and benign way.

        I commit such crime and as you know I am completely open about it and encourage others to do the same. Maybe it's worth thinking about ignoring such crimes? Many people from all sides of the fence (and on) now feel that the Hunting Act is flawed - albeit for different reasons. IMO the clearer it can be made that the law can be and is broken with impunity the better - that might help forward the argument for the law to be revisited whether for revision, repeal, replacement or whatever.

        There's a quote somewhere on your site about standing by and ignoring evil. What I'm proposing is a bit of a variant on that. That Wild Justice stand by and ignore the Hunting Act being openly broken.

        It really doesn't require you doing anything although perhaps you could be more up front about why you do nothing.

        The police, LACS, RSPCA and IFAW already ignore the Hunting Act being openly broken when it doesn't suit them politically to enforce it. Perhaps Wild Justice as the new horse on the course could do exactly what its stable mates do.

        Breaking bad laws can be great fun and completely harmless - that's why they are bad laws - because they fail to properly demarcate between harmless and harmful actions.

        Enforcement agencies ignoring bad laws being broken is just as justified as people breaking them.

        Think about it - Chris Packham could use his celebrity status to encourage people to flout the Hunting Act!

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        1. I must have missed the part where Wild Justice said that they were taking over from the police and judiciary to prevent wildlife crime. I think you are being extremely disingenuous in your verbose and, basically, irrelevant, posts. What WJ have achieved, as Mark has clearly explained, has taken them by surprise.

          Natural England are the ones who have made all of the decisions, including the one where they chose to avoid the judicial review by acting precipitately to cancel general licences. If I were a cynic I would suggest that the outpourings of rage and misinformation from those affected is EXACTLY the furore they hoped to create - as a way of distracting from the fact that they may well have been culpable for the unregulated, unlawful killing of millions of birds over the years and to create a hostile environment for any future Wild Justice activities.

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          1. I've missed the part where I said they'd said that - so your post is certainly irrelevant.

            I try to commit a wildlife crime every day - I love it. I do think that wild justice can play an important part in encouraging such criminal behaviour by simply ignoring it. I am simply putting a case to Mark as to why they should do so. I can't see what is to object to about that.

            I certainly don't approve of all wildlife crime - in fact I am intensely opposed to a lot of it and obviously where I don't agree with it I don't do it. However some of it is completely harmless, indeed positively beneficial and great fun to boot.

            I think there are some avenues where Wildlife Crime along side other enforcement agencies official and private can co operate with the criminals that's all I am proposing.

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  2. Thank you, Mark.

    I emailed Natural Resources Wales on a couple of occasions last week to ask what their position is following NE's announcements. Their responses so far - from the Communications Team on Wednesday 24 - "Your enquiry should've been sent into our Customer Care Centre....we are currently working on a media line that we can probably share with you later today ". And - from the Customer Care Centre on Friday 26 - "[we] are currently considering our position".

    But I'm not a media megastar, of course 😉

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    1. michael - thank you for doing that (and don't put yopurself down - you've done something whjich is the important thing).

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  3. ......Mark, with the greatest respect, you’re going to struggle with farmers and keepers (2main sorts on front line dealing with poachers) getting on board with you. Just being honest.
    Bit late to the party on Hare coursing I’m afraid!

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      1. It seems illogical, but typical, that a great deal of vitriol has been aimed at the triumvirate that is Wild Justice over the withdrawal and changes to the General Licences. A rather serious but not unexpected case of shooting the messenger, something the hunting shooting and fishing brigade have history of. If NE realised, and they surely must have, that their position or that of the GLs were untenable this didn't happen immediately before the chaos of last week. There could have been adequate warning but then they would have carried more of the can themselves and the messenger ( Wild Justice) less.
        As it is NE have shown themselves, even whilst accepting liability for years of illegal licences, to still be incredibly incompetent.
        Then we have the howls of anguish from those who claimed that agriculture, well at least OSR and sheep farmers would be cast adrift without protection or chance of making a living without the ability to kill crows and woodies. Sorry but simple logic says it cannot be true any more than the " Curlew, Lapwing and Black Grouse will be extinct" by the time this sorted claim of the ecologically illiterate Amanda Anderson and co. I suspect that when the flora and fauna protection GLs are produced they will contain major changes that will certainly have the tweed set still gnashing teeth and cursing under their breath. If not they will not be fit for purpose, but we shall see.
        In the meantime very well done Mark, Chris and Ruth we know you get lots and lots of serious unpleasantness as a result of this and other actions but rest assured there are many of us with you. ( For the critics we're not all ignorant or townies either)

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        1. Well said, Paul. The level of ignorant vitriol that this issue has unleashed is quite unbelievable. It makes Brexit look like a tea party!

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  4. All of these questions are defensive and will do nothing to stem the "criticism". From the nature of the questions it seems pretty clear the driven grouse shooting apologists are going to use this as a stick to beat you as well. I would modestly suggest (though I have no experience in campaigning) that you should go on the offensive. It seems that the speed of Natural England's response would indicate that legally it was caught with it's trousers down and with both hands in the cookie jar. Your message should be "How could Natural England let down landowners so badly by letting them do things that were illegal for so many years?"

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  5. Do you include RSPB staff who were using the licenses in the category of people who "may have been committing unlawful acts"?

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    1. Matt - not to my knowledge as there was, and presumably still is, a protocol which would have ensured non-lethal means were used and that there was good evidence for impact on fauna at a high level of effect. For example, RSPB nature reserves do not kill Magpies to 'increase songbird numbers' as the evidence for any impact is very thin. Would you be able to say the same about the readers of Shooting Times?

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      1. That makes no difference at all. Lethal control can only occur if legally authorised. It doesn't matter what you have done before hand. Unless there is a licence you can not legally kill birds. An unlawful licence makes any killing a breach of WACA section 1.

        By saying that the assessments they undertook made the killing legal you are using the exact reasoning that your challenge to the general licence claimed was false. You said only NE can apply that test, but here you are claiming that the RSPB could apply it. Which is it?

        I don't answer for the readers of Shooting Times.

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        1. Under the GL, as was, the need to cull was based on there being a need to cull and that other methods had failed to prevent damage. To that extent, as Mark argued, the RSPB had, in the past, followed the guidance and we have to assume that it reluctantly proceeded to culling only as a last resort in protecting other bird species.
          The GL however allowed all manner of killing of birds where it was not a last resort in response to a need and where a species in a certain setting was not meeting the criteria to allow it to be culled but was being killed for fun, for having got a poor reputation in the eyes of some people, or for food. This abuse of the terms of the licence was allowing wholesale killing of the species covered.
          NE’s withdrawal of the licence is because it agrees that the licence which they were issuing in blanket form was not fulfilling the purpose it should have done over many years. They will replace it, presumably, with a licence which will oversee that the process as quoted by Mark as RSPB past practice is adhered to by all in issuing a licence.
          For Matt to pursue it further is surely just nit picking.

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        2. It does make a difference. It's now clear is that the licences were issued unlawfully. But Natural England left it to licence holders to go through the decision process required by the law prior to a decision to kill birds. That was faulty, but it remains the case that if those to whom the licence was granted did in fact follow the appropriate decision process, then any action they subsequently took would at any rate in practice be unassailable in law. And that is where the RSPB stand, as regularly reported: https://bit.ly/2vofF2g. And plainly, on their own account, it is not where at least some others stand.

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        3. If a statutory agency issues you a licence, in this case to kill certain species under the terms of their licensing scheme, and, as the RSPB will have made sure that they do, they abide by those terms, then they have followed the law as it stood at the time and committed no criminal acts.

          If that licence is subsequently found to be unlawful, it is the people who issued the licence who have acted unlawfully, not people who, in good faith, have acted under the terms of that licence. Changes in law or, as in this case, in licensing is not retrospective. Perhaps you would be better addressing your (spurious) complaint to the Countryside Alliance, the Moorland Association, the Country Landowners Association; the NFU, the NGO and BASC as it is their members that are the ones who have been exploiting Natural England's laxity.

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      2. How about non lethal means such as "shooing" birds away? Such means can also be applied to wild mammals!

        And maybe rather than viewing certain species as a whole as 'pests' to be killed we should realise that a pest - much like a weed is really just the wrong animal in the wrong place (from our point of view).

        That's why seeking to relocate wildlife that is causing problems - where practical can be a good alternative to just killing it.

        For example say I get a swarm of bees in my house - I think it's fair to say those bees could be considered a pest in that situation. It would be all very well to suggest that I should just live with them but it's not impractical.

        I could of course kill the bees - but why not relocate the swarm to a hive or other location. Then they aren't a pest any more!

        The same basic principle can apply to birds and mammals as well as insects.

        If wild deer are causing problems - you can kill them - however also maybe seek to encourage them to go else where from the specific site where they are doing damage.

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  6. Modern farms, not using gas bangers, rope bangers, hawk kites etc etc??!!... I’d say most farms/estates cover the bases.

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  7. That does not matter at all. Killing of birds requires specific legal authorisation. Nothing you do or don't do beforehand makes any difference if you don't have a licence.

    Your legal challenge to the GLs was based on the argument that only NE could assess the necessity for lethal control. Yet here you argue the RSPB's actions were legal because the RSPB had assessed that need.

    I don't answer for the readers of Shooting Times. I suggest you ask them.

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    1. Matt - you're really not very good at this. Only NE could put in place a licensing system to try to ensure lawful bird killing. Anyone could try to ensure that they looked at the law and upheld it, and the RSPB did just that.

      I can't speak for the RSPB now, but I can vaguely remember what we did in the past. You can't speak for Shooting Times's readers but the stuff you and others write should be accurate and help them to stick to the law. How is Shooting Times doing on that do you think? No-one can speak for the populace at large, even antural england whose job it is to operate the licensing system.

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  8. You are not engaging with the point. If the licenses were invalid, anyone acting under them, including your RSPB staff (13 years as conservation director?) was acting without a licence and was therefore acting illegally. You concede this point in your blog.

    If they were looking at the law they would realise that without a valid license no amount of scaring, assessing or anything else makes the killing legal.

    Let me put it like this. If the General licence was invalid (as you contend) what piece of legislation gave RSPB staff lawful authority to kill wild birds?

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    1. Matt - well, I am struggling to get your point and I am leaving this keyboard in a minute. The licensing system was unlawful - people can still stick to the law in the absence of a legal licensing system.

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        1. Matt - sorry, I think I am beginning to get what you are on about. But I'm not sure. I have some other things to ask the folks at Leigh Day and elsewhere but I'll add this to the list. I think you might be saying that because the licensing system was illegal then all actions under it by everybody were illegal? I doubt it. Those people had licences but they may have been doing illegal things whilst relying on them (some of them) whereas others weren't 9many of them).

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          1. An invalid license isn't a license for the simple fact that it does not give you license to carry out an action - which is the be all and end all of what a license is - if your MOT certificate isn't legally valid then you don't have an MOT - ditto for driving licenses, banknotes and invalid general licenses to kill birds.

            I think however in this instance we can all agree that people who killed birds without a valid license should not be prosecuted because they acted in good faith. This should apply equally to gamekeepers, the RSPB and anyone else caught up in this unfortunate shimozzle.

            Just because something is illegal does not mean that people should be prosecuted for doing it. The law merely gives people the power (dare I say it licenses them) to prosecute others. If they then want to let people off with not complying with the legislation that's their prerogative.

            I do think however that people who operate law enforcement bodies - including Wild Justice should be up front about whose law breaking they ignore and why.

            Perhaps with Wild Justice this might be considered a moral responsibility - with state enforcement it's much more that that.

            If some people are made effectively above the law due to the Police and CPS allowing them to break it then this fact should be transparent.

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          2. G - how very intereting - I mean, of course, the number of 'license' which should 'licence'.

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      1. FWIU Matt's logic runs as follows:

        1) If the licensing system was invalid that means that all the licenses issued under it were invalid.

        2) It's a criminal offence to shoot birds without a license

        3) They could stick to the law without a valid license if they didn't shoot birds

        4) However they DID shoot birds without a valid license therefore they are criminals.

        Maybe these crimes is one that Wild Justice should add to its "wild life crime we ignore" bucket list.

        After all this is the RSPB! Surely THEY should be allowed to flout the law with impunity!!!!

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        1. I am not sure what point you think you are making Matt. So what if the RSPB was included amongst those unwittingly carrying out unlawful acts when they relied, in good faith, on the General Licence as authorising any lethal control measures they may have undertaken? So far as I know no-one is proposing to go back and prosecute people for activities carried out under the GL - that would be a pointless exercise. Rather, the proposal is that now the fact that the GL has been recognised to have been unlawful a new licensing system is required that will ensure that where lethal control is deemed to be necessary it is done in compliance with the law. The RSPB and everyone else will have to follow this new system in future.

          One can add to this that the GL was never a carte blanche to people to go out and kill crows and the other listed species willy-nilly. Section 4(4) of the Wildlife and Countryside Act requires that anyone carrying out lethal control of 'pest' bird species should show that there is no other satisfactory solution. In this regard, I believe the RSPB has been at pains to comply with terms of the GL and has used lethal control as a last resort, whereas it is clear that many land managers have simply viewed crows, magpies etc as fair game whenever and wherever they have appeared in the gun-sights.

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          1. "... there is no other satisfactory solution"

            How many sheep have to be blinded or disemboweled before the need to shoot a carrion crow is proven? And is the licence for that particular crow, or all of them? They all look the same to me.

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          2. "unlawful acts"

            I've been picking up on the use of 'unlawful/illegal' on the radio on the way up the M1 this evening. They basically have the same meaning but one is employed to be subtly less discrediting to the law breaker.

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          3. I don't know Filbert but I'd imagine that a farmer who is genuinely losing sheep in the way you describe will have no problem in obtaining a licence under the new system when it comes into operation and could argue that any crow shooting he did under the old system was as legally justified as any predator control undertaken by the RSPB.

            On the other hand the 'simple Yorkshire man' who posted on this site recently that he patrolled the hedges shooting magpies in order to save song birds could not reasonably argue that his actions were consistent with the terms of the GL.

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          4. "unlawful acts"

            I am using the term used in Mark's original Q&A, Giles, that Matt Cross picked up on. Call it illegal if you prefer. With hindsight the RSPB and anyone else who has relied on the general licence to carry out predator control in the past now knows this was against the law even though they were acting in good faith at the time and believed that they were acting lawfully. Why is it so important for Matt Cross to make a big deal out of the fact that the RSPB are included in this group of people? Presumably he is trying to imply some double standards or hypocrisy but there are no double standards involved as far as I can see. The RSPB has never pretended that it does not undertake predator control on occasion where it believes it to be necessary, has it? Wild Justice has acknowledged that there are circumstances when predator control can be necessary (though presumably they have a rather different view to Matt on how much control is justified, how widespread the need and for what reasons it may be justified).

            If Matt is seeking to make a different point perhaps he could be kind enough to clarify what it is.

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      2. Matt's seems to simply wanting you to say the RSPB were acting illegally. However I think he is willfuly ignoring the obvious: the system as administered by Natural England was working. and everybody was playing by the rules set out by Natural England and obtaining the correct licences for the activities they were carrying out. Nobody had any understanding that what they were doing was in reality not in full compliance with the law since the assumption was that Natural England, as administrators and regulators of the process knew what they were doing. What Wild Justice did was simply to enforce an audit of the law to see if the regulations were compliant and as it turns out they were not. So based on this audit , everybody was not in compliance with the law they were acting in the faith that the system was operating correctly. Technically everybody was acting illegally but that's only arguing over semantics which is generally rather pointless.

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        1. @Stuart lots of things are 'technically' illegal - Rape, Murder, Genocide, Theft - all these things are technically illegal. Whether a specific action is illegal or not is always a matter of semantics. This is because laws are expressed in language and the interpretation of the law is therefore a matter of semantics. The accepted semantics of laws are constantly refined by case law where judges consider and adjudicate on what are often very technical and indeed pedantic points.

          To apply the law on Murder for example someone must be technically guilty of killing someone - and to decide that the semantics of the word 'kill' are crucial.

          If someone's action did not fall within the meaning of 'kill'ing someone then they are technically innocent of the crime of Murder.

          By 'technically' criminal - people generally mean criminal but getting away with it because people choose not to enforce the law.

          If Mark obtains legal advice that the RSPB and others have indeed committed a 'wildlife crime' by shooting birds with an invalid license then wild justice will need to decide whether this is a wildlife crime they want to prosecute - or indeed encourage others to prosecute.

          I'd suggest that if it is a wildlife crime it should be placed in the category of wildlife crime that should be ignored.

          I'm sure Mark will do exactly that.

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    2. I would question whether the (apparent) fact that that NEs procedures when issuing and administering the General Licences were inadequate necessarily means that the licences themselves were invalid, or could not be relied upon by those using them in accordance with the rules.

      But that's a question for the lawyers.

      The important point is that the General Licences could only be relied upon if certain conditions were satisfied.

      I'm fairly sure that the RSPB and similar such organisations would have satisfied those conditions in all good faith.

      I suspect that not everyone who availed themselves of the General Licences could claim the same.

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  9. Pedants' Corner: Unlawful v illegal. Offending against the criminal law is "illegal" while a tort under civil law is "unlawful". Although, of course, relying on an unlawful licensing system to justify an action may result in your committing an illegal act. Sorry for the pedantry, but it's more than semantics.

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    1. @Jon pedants' corner #2 (I note your use of "s'" rather than "'s" implies multiple occupancy).

      illegal
      /ɪˈliːɡ(ə)l/
      adjective
      1.
      contrary to or forbidden by law, especially criminal law.
      "illegal drugs"
      synonyms: unlawful, illicit, illegitimate, against the law, criminal, lawbreaking, actionable, felonious;


      Thank you google!

      I'm not sure that all torts are strictly speaking 'unlawful'. The tort of negligence for example creates a legal liability from the "negligencer" to the "negligencee". However the negligencer has done nothing 'unlawful' she has merely incurred a legal liability due to her incautious action. In this respect it might be said that one generally doesn't really 'break' civil law.

      With respect to shooting animals without a valid license I expect it's illegality (or unlawfulness) - and ALL illegal actions are unlawful would depend on whether having a reasonable belief that one's license was valid is a valid defence under the particular law in question.

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    1. No Giles and both have precious little to do with the general licences, give it a rest!

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      1. Hi Paul I was replying to the comment made by Prasad above - the threads on this site dont seem to work with Iphone.

        However Mark's post is not just about the general license but about what Wild Justice might do next. My general thrust is obviously highly relevant as it proposes a way in which they can help encourage people to flout the law.

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  10. The story simplified.

    Dear Natural England:- Your licences are illegal.
    NE... No they are not.
    Dear Natural England:- Your licences are illegal!
    NE... No they are not!
    DEAR NATURAL ENGLAND: YOUR LICENCES ARE ILLEGAL!
    NE....just ignoring you....
    Dear Natural England...lets just test this in court.
    NE...oh shit. Apparently our licences were illegal...who would have known...?

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  11. Mark/ Matt,

    Whilst in retrospect, the former GLs were issued illegally, anyone that relied on them would have had in my opinion, until Friday last week, a reasonable defence. That defence being that as the statutory authority had issued the GLs, users could reasonably rely on their veracity in good faith.

    In legal jargon, I believe in most instances, for a crime to have been committed, you have to prove the 'actus reus' AND the 'mens rea'. The former is the act committed (killing the bird in this context). The second is the mental state of the alleged perpetrator, ie could they reasonably have known they were committing an offence. Prior to Friday, the mens rea element could not have been proven, as they had a fairly water-tight defence in that no reasonable person could have believed they were committing an offence as they could proffer the relevant GL issued by the statutory authority.

    So, if the RSPB only applied lethal force following a sequential process, and this can be evidenced (through policy documentation and other paperwork) then I would respectfully suggest that the organisation and individuals are on pretty solid ground.

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    1. Richard, they may or may not have a valid defence - it's irrelevant because no one will prosecute them so they don't need a defence.

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