25
Jan
15

Subsidy penalty for Stody Estate?

stody buzzardsOn 1st October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert from the Stody Estate in Norfolk was found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk, which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides & other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’), and a firearms offence (see here and here).

On 6th November 2014, Lambert was sentenced. Even though the magistrate acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes passed the custody threshold, he only received a 10 week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and nine poisoned buzzards (suspended for one year), and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

On 5th October 2014, we blogged about the millions of pounds worth of subsidies that had been awarded to Stody Estate in recent years (see here) and we encouraged blog readers to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask whether Stody Estate would receive a financial penalty in the form of subsidy withdrawal for being in breach of the terms & conditions of their subsidy-fest.

On 10th October 2014, the RPA responded by saying they would consider what action could be taken against Stody Estate (see here).

Then it all went quiet.

One of our blog readers decided to submit an FoI to the RPA in December 2014, to see what was going on. Here is his letter:

12 DECEMBER 2014

To whom it may concern

I am making this request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information I request relates to the conviction in October 2014 of Mr Allen Lambert, a gamekeeper employed by the Stody Estate, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2ER for illegally poisoning ten buzzards and a sparrowhawk.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with all the information you hold relating to the following questions:

  1. Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.
  2. Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.
  3. Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

XXXXX XXXXX

On 14th January 2015, the RPA responded with this:

14 JANUARY 2015

Dear XXXXX XXXXX

Re: Freedom of Information – Information Request

Thank you for your request for information dated 12 December 2014 which has been dealt with under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).

You have asked:

‘1. Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.’

‘2. Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.’

‘3. Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.’

Having considered your request we regret that we are unable to provide you with any meaningful response as we do not hold any information that answers your questions. However, RPA would like to make clear that it is required to assess cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy claims based on intent, extent, severity, permanence and repetition of the non-compliance. We can assure you that RPA will take action, including cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy payments applicable, if this is found to be appropriate.

In order to qualify for most CAP subsidy payments, claimants are required to keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition and comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). This is known as cross compliance. One of the SMRs covers wild birds (SMR 1) and this includes a rule about killing, injuring or taking wild birds.

Further information is published on the GOV.UK website (Page 43 – deals with wild birds).

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/320833/The_Guide_to_Cross_Compliance_in_England_2014_complete_edition.pdf

If you are not happy with the way we have handled your request, you can ask for an internal review. These requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed to: Access to Information, Rural Payments Agency, North Gate House, 21-23 Valpy Street, Reading, RG1 1AF.

Yours sincerely

Rural Payments Agency

Not very helpful, is it?

Thanks to the blog reader who followed up with the FoI and shared the response with us. We understand the RPA can expect further FoIs until a satisfactory response is received. Watch this space….

Meanwhile, you might be interested to compare Lambert’s pathetic sentence with that of an anti-badger cull protester. Lambert was given a 10 week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 costs for the mass poisoning of protected birds, the illegal storage of banned poisons and a firearms offence. The badger cull protester, who breached the terms of an injunction designed to stop him disrupting badger culls (he filmed someone involved with the cull and stood outside the NFU office wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘FCK NFU’), was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs that could amount to £55,000 (see here). The first installment of £25,000 is due on 1st May. A crowd-funding page has been set up for those who want to help – see here.

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9 Responses to “Subsidy penalty for Stody Estate?”


  1. 1 sallygutteridge
    January 25, 2015 at 10:39 am

    We live in a muddle of double standards. Whatever suits those that can pay for it will always win. The only real way to stop all of this is embracing a lifestyle where we do not practice speciesism. Veganism and the act of leaving other species alone and not using them for food, sport, leisure and entertainment is truly the only way to change this society of ingrained, never ending abuse. Will we ever be so unselfish as a species, who knows.

  2. 2 Flash
    January 26, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Well said, Sally.

  3. 3 bruceb
    January 28, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    I emailed CSC at RPA about this. Their reply seemed to me to say that they’d only act about these things if the naughty person, in this case the gamekeeper, was a recipient of money in that year. Which rather makes a case for the RSPB and others going after the estate owners.

    Well done so far.

  4. 5 bruceb
    January 28, 2015 at 8:04 pm

    Here’s the main part…

    Thank you for your email dated 25/01/2015 regarding Stody Estate.

    Cross Compliance rules only apply to recipients of Single Payment Scheme or certain Rural Development scheme payment in the year in which a cross compliance breach is found.

    The person prosecuted for the offences mentioned in your e-mail is not a recipient of either of these types of payment. Therefore before RPA can take further action, it will be necessary to determine whether there a link between this person and a subsidy recipient and, if there is, whether that recipient can be considered liable for the actions of the person who committed the breaches.

    Identifying whether the person prosecuted is linked to a subsidy recipient will form a key part of our investigations.

    Should you have any further queries please contact us again quoting reference number XXXXXX.

    Regards

    … Sent 28th Jan, 1545

    I supposed it depends how deeply they want to look. Maybe if more people ask, they’ll be more motivated.

    • January 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      Thanks, that’s very interesting.

      The link between the convicted criminal and the subsidy recipient is clear: he was an employee. It’ll be fascinating to see whether the RPA considers that relationship to be sufficient cause for subsidy withdrawal from the employer.

  5. 7 bruceb
    January 29, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    You don’t suppose the estate management will wash their hands and leave the gamekeeper to carry the can? (In this case, the can of mevinphos)

  6. February 23, 2015 at 4:47 pm

    I got an acknowledgement for my email and that it was being looked into…………..

    No answer yet. Will I ever get one?


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