In January we blogged about the subsidy penalty given to Ninian Johnston Stewart, the first landowner to be convicted under vicarious liability legislation in Scotland after his gamekeeper laid out poisoned bait that killed a buzzard in 2012. At the time of Johnston Stewart’s conviction we knew that he’d lost some of his agricultural subsidy but we didn’t know how much. The only information in the public domain was the following quote from his defence agent, David McKie, who was discussing Johnston Stewart’s (derisory) fine of £675:
“He [Johnston Stewart] had already been penalised substantially via a high five-figure deduction to his Single Farm Payment“.
The size of his subsidy penalty has now been revealed in the latest edition of the RSPB’s Investigations newsletter, Legal Eagle:
“In 2012, Johnston Stewart’s business received nearly £120,000 in Single Farm Payments. Under ‘cross-compliance’ there is a requirement to comply with a number of conditions in order to receive payments. The poisoned bait and buzzard were found on land used for agriculture by the business and consequently he lost nearly £66,000 of the 2012 payment“.
That’s a good result, although you have to question why his entire 2012 subsidy (nearly £120,000) wasn’t withdrawn.
In other subsidy penalty news, regular blog readers will be aware that we’ve been trying to find out (unsuccessfully so far) whether the Stody Estate (Norfolk) has also received a subsidy penalty, following the conviction of gamekeeper Allen Lambert for poisoning 11 raptors (10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk) in 2012 and a series of other related crimes (see here, here, here, here, here and here). According to our reckoning, Stody Estate has potentially breached two Statutory Management Requirements: SMR1 (intentional killing of wild birds) and SMR9 (use of pesticides).
Thanks to the determination of one of our blog readers, here’s the latest response from the Rural Payments Agency:
12 February 2015
Re: Freedom of Information – Information Request
Thank you for your request for information dated 15 January 2015 which has been dealt with under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).
To answer your questions:
1. Has the illegal poisoning of birds of prey carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate been reported to the RPA as a possible breach of Cross Compliance SMR1?
We can confirm that members of the public approached RPA following the media reporting of the prosecution, with several suggesting that SMR1 had been breached.
2. If the answer to the above question is yes, how many individuals have reported the potential breach to the RPA?
RPA can confirm that we have received e-mails from 20 individuals mentioning a possible breach in RPA regulations by the Stody Estate.
3. Is the RPA currently investigating a reported breach in cross-compliance at the Stody Estate relating to SMR1?
We previously answered a similar question in our response to you, reference XXXXX, and advised we do not hold any information that answers this question. RPA is obliged by European legislation to follow up these reports. We can assure you that RPA will take action, including cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy payments, if this is found to be appropriate.
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.
Rural Payments Agency
You’d think that it would be a lot easier for members of the public to find out how their taxes have been spent, or more importantly, whether they’ve been withdrawn from those involved with criminality, wouldn’t you?