03
Jun
13

Buzzard licensing: turning up the heat

buzzard 3Last Thursday we blogged about the buzzard licensing scandal and how new information had come to light (see here). We are still in the middle of taking legal advice on what information we can and can’t release.

We also posed two questions; one to Natural England and one to the National Gamekeepers Organisation:

Question to the National Gamekeepers Organisation: “Bearing in mind the NGO’s published Disciplinary Procedure (see here), did this gamekeeper have an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application and has he ever been suspended or expelled as a member of the National Gamekeepers Organisation?”

So far, the NGO has refused to answer.

Question to Natural England: “Did this gamekeeper have an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application?”

Today, Natural England has issued a refusal notice, i.e. they are refusing to confirm or deny that they hold any details about convictions on the licence application.

Here is a copy of that refusal notice: 2018_response_RD_tcm6-36002

Natural England claim that the information we have asked for falls into the ‘personal information’ category as defined under the Data Protection Act 2000. As such, they consider it would be ‘unfair’ to disclose the information requested.

We disagree with them. If this individual did have a wildlife crime conviction at the time of his application, then details of that conviction would be a matter of public record, therefore it wouldn’t qualify as protected personal information.

The information we asked for was not, ‘What was the applicant’s conviction?’, it was ‘Did he have a conviction?‘ Natural England could have answered our question with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. By doing so, the disclosure of the information would not breach the individual’s privacy as the information could not be used to identify him. The question is not so much about the gamekeeper per se, but it is central to questions about Natural England’s policy on licence applications to destroy protected species and/or their nests and eggs. We believe that scrutiny of their policy is very much in the public interest.

As Natural England has issued a refusal notice, we intend to challenge it by asking for a review. We would encourage blog readers to also challenge it. If you’re not sure how to phrase it, you could always just cut and paste the following:

To: foi@naturalengland.org.uk

Dear Natural England,

Thank you for your refusal notice to prevent disclosure of whether the buzzard licence applicant had an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application.

I would like to request a review of your decision.

I don’t believe that the disclosure of the information I have requested meets the criteria as defined in the Data Protection Act, because a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer would suffice. A ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer would not compromise the privacy (hidden identity) of the buzzard licence applicant, but it would inform a wider debate on the policy used by Natural England to issue licences to destroy protected species and/or their nests and eggs. This is clearly in the pubic interest.

I look forward to hearing from you.

And if you’re in an email-writing mood, let’s keep up the pressure on the National Gamekeepers Organisation to answer this very simple question:

To: info@nationalgamekeepers.org.uk

Dear Lindsay Waddell,

Bearing in mind the NGO’s published Disciplinary Procedure, did this gamekeeper have an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application and has he ever been suspended or expelled as a member of the National Gamekeepers Organisation?


7 Responses to “Buzzard licensing: turning up the heat”


  1. June 3, 2013 at 7:53 pm

    Good stuff, the pressure needs to continue.

  2. 2 Tony Warburton MBE
    June 4, 2013 at 11:10 am

    I take it both non-responses can mean only one thing – xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    [Ed: Sorry Tony, had to edit that last part].

  3. 3 Dan S
    June 4, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Here’s the response I got from NE after e-mailing them. I’ll be e-mailing them again very soon..
    ——————————————————————————————-

    Dear xxxxx,

    Access to information request – Information is reasonably accessible – Request no RFI 2030
    Thank you for your requests for information about:

    1. Had the applicant tried all possible measures to protect his pheasants, including ones suggested/ recommended by wildlife conservation groups?

    2. To confirm did this gamekeeper have an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application?
    Your request has been considered under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

    Under Regulation 6(1)(b) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 we are not required to provide information that is already reasonably accessible to you. The information you requested is available on the Freedom of Information disclosure log page of the Natural England website.
    A link to the disclosure log page is below.
    http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/freedom_of_information/disclosurelog.aspx

    For question one relating to what measure were taken then these can be found in the documents we issued in response to RFI 1963 (24 May 2013 entry). The document that will be of particular interest to you can be found in the zip file titled ‘1963 Licence A Part 2’ and is named ‘WLM 2013 0569-0581 report final version_RD’. To be of assistance a copy is attached to this email.

    For question two relating to any unspent convictions this information can be found in the response we issued to RFI 2013 (03 June 2013 entry) and to be of assistance a link to the actual response letter is below.
    http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/Images/2018_response_RD_tcm6-36002.pdf

    If you have any queries about this email, please contact me.
    As you may be aware, under the legislation should you have any concerns with the service you have received in relation to your request and wish to make a complaint or request a review of our decision, please contact the Access to Information team at foi@naturalengland.org.ukwho will instruct a review to take place in accordance with the Regulations.

    Under Regulation 11(2) this needs to be done no later than 40 working days after the date of this letter].
    If you are not content with the outcome of that complaint, or the review of our decision, you may apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. Generally, the Commissioner cannot make a decision unless you have exhausted the complaints procedure provided by Natural England. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: The Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF. Telephone: 01625 545 700, http://www.ico.gov.uk.

    Yours sincerely,
    Sarah Waterfield

  4. 4 John Thatcher
    June 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Sent today:

    Dear Natural England,

    I am deeply concerned about the lack of transparency regarding the issue of buzzard licences to game management operatives in England. Game management, after all, supports extraordinarily outdated activities, which are enjoyed by a very privileged minority. It does appear that a certain favour is being given to these people which is at odds with the greater need for protection of the natural environment for all.

    The issuing of control licences for the purpose of managing buzzard numbers would seem to be contrary to the United Kingdom’s obligations to maintain healthy species diversity and, specifically the buzzard (Buteo buteo) as a schedule 1 protected species. I understand that you have declined requests to disclose, in a particular instance, whether a buzzard licence applicant had an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application.

    This would appear to be contrary to the public interest. I would, therefore, like to request a review of your decision.

    I don’t believe that the disclosure of the information requested meets the criteria as defined in the Data Protection Act, because a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer would suffice. A ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer would not compromise the privacy (hidden identity) of the buzzard licence applicant, but it would inform a wider debate on the policy used by Natural England to issue licences to destroy protected species and/or their nests and eggs.

    I shall be interested to see your response,

    With regards

    John Thatcher

    • 5 John Thatcher
      June 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      And here’s what they replied, today!

      FOI (NE) (foi@naturalengland.org.uk)

      Add to contacts

      13:26

      To: FOI (NE)

      Picture of FOI (NE)

      Thank you for your email asking Natural England to review the decision/refusal notice for request number RFI 2018 which relates to whether the buzzard licence applicant had an un-spent work-related conviction at the time of his application.

      Under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 an applicant has the right to have our decision reconsidered if they express dissatisfaction about what information was provided. This is done by way of an internal review.

      As you did not make the initial request for the response you refer to you are unable to request a review of our decision.

      However, the applicant has requested an internal review and we will advise you of the results when the process has been completed. Please note we will be undertaking this review as quickly as possible and within the legal deadline of 40 working days.

      Regards,

      Sarah Waterfield

      Lead Adviser – Information Access

      Customer Service Team

      Natural England

      Suite D, Unex House,

      Bourges Boulevard,

      Peterborough. PE1 1NG

  5. 6 Graham Iriving
    June 6, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    John, I note from your original e mail to Natural England you mention that the common buzzard is a schedule 1 species, this is actually incorrect, they are not included on that list. The link below takes you to the current list ..
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1981/69/schedule/1

    Graham


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