Judicial review underway for gamekeeper who wants to kill buzzards

6754An important judicial review is underway at the High Court this week. It concerns the legal question about whether Natural England acted fairly when it refused licences to a gamekeeper to allow him to kill buzzards and sparrowhawks to protect his pheasants.

The JR has been brought by Northumberland gamekeeper Ricky McMorn and is backed by the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation.

Article in the Chronicle here.

We’ve blogged extensively about this over the last three years. See here for earlier posts, which include discussions about whether DEFRA/Natural England should entertain a licence application from a gamekeeper with a previous conviction for possession of a banned poison (apparently that’s not a problem), whether the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation should expel a member with a conviction for possession of a banned poison (apparently not), and whether there’s any scientific evidence to demonstrate buzzards (and sparrowhawks) have a substantially detrimental effect on game bird shoots (there isn’t).


22 Responses to “Judicial review underway for gamekeeper who wants to kill buzzards”

  1. 1 elizabeth snell
    June 12, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    He’ll win this one because the gutless NE approved the same for someone elsewhere thus setting a precedent. Will his record as a Gamekeeper be admissable in court?

  2. 2 Dave
    June 12, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Be interesting to see what they decide – the fact the Gamekeeper had convictions for keeping banned pesticides should have been eough to prevent the granting – if not, then the law needs changed

  3. 4 Dave
    June 12, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    Just read McMorn said ” I am having to battle the might of the state in the form of Natural England to protect my birds and my job.”

    If he was so concerned about protecting his birds he wouldn’t let people shoot them…

    • 5 Mikey naylor
      June 12, 2015 at 2:09 pm


    • 6 Julie Wright
      June 12, 2015 at 3:38 pm

      Well said Dave, double standards as usual. Why doesn’t he try a different tact. He could set up a hide & have people pay to photograph birds of prey actually catching prey?

      • 7 Douglas Malpus
        June 12, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        But that doesn’t include things that go bang. The stupid macho types need big guns to protect themselves from pheasants. They don’t have any other uses for the dead birds????? 34 million pheasants wronged each year.

    • 8 Marco McGinty
      June 12, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      And if he was so concerned about protecting his birds, he would put a roof on each of his pens. Problem solved!

  4. 9 nirofo
    June 12, 2015 at 4:41 pm

    If the gamekeepers can’t look after their birds without killing legally protected wildlife then they shouldn’t be employed as a gamekeeper and should find alternative employment. If the shoot is not viable without killing legally protected birds of prey then the shoot should be closed down for good. DEFRA and Natural England / SNH need to look long and hard at the real reason for this application, do they want to protect unnaturally large numbers, (millions) of introduced pheasants, or do they want to further diminish the UK’s rapidly dwindling numbers of so-called protected Raptors so that a the shooting estates can make even more profit at their expense. There is only one conclusion they should come to and that is to continue with the legislation protecting of all birds of prey, strongly enforce the wildlife protection laws and tell all the shooting estates to leave the Raptors alone or lose your shooting rights !!!

  5. 11 Jimmy
    June 12, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Hard to be optimistic about the outcome of this case given the kid glove treatment of Gamekeepers convicted of serious wildlife crimes by the law system in this country

  6. 12 Dave Dick
    June 12, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    Im confused…isnt it automatic that a person convicted of a wildlife offence has their right to hold an open general licence [for trapping or shooting “pest” species] removed…but now it seems they can get a licence to kill a protected species…thats just bloody ridiculous….

    • June 12, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      It’s a bit more complex than that, Dave. In both Scotland & England there is an automatic withdrawal of the GL for five years following conviction, although in both countries the guilty party can still apply for an individual licence from the Stat. Nature Conservation agency to carry on as normal.

      However, in the case of this gamekeeper, that ruling didn’t apply because (a) his conviction was in 2007, three years before the ‘automatic withdrawal’ mechanism came in to force in England (2010); and (b) even if his conviction was in 2010 or post-2010, the automatic withdrawal still wouldn’t have applied because the English GLs specify the actual legislation that has to have been breached for the withdrawal to apply. In McMorn’s case, he was convicted under the Food & Environment Protection Act 1985 and the Control of Pesticides Regs Act 1986, neither of which are specified on the English GLs.

      This is how the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation neatly side-stepped the issue of not ejecting him from their membership – they claimed his offences weren’t ‘wildlife crimes’, and technically, they were correct, even though for someone to carry out the wildlife crime of laying a poisoned bait they first have to either be in possession of, or storing, the poison!

  7. 14 Jimmy
    June 12, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    When can we expect a ruling?? The more I think about it the more I fear this may be a very dangerous trojan horse for all of the UK’s raptor species!!

  8. 15 crypticmirror
    June 12, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    Now I’m not going to say that a chap will go and have a drink with another chap, and then invite a chap to a chap’s country pile for a spot of drinking and healthy outdoor pursuits over the course of a weekend, then a chap might see clear to put the old kybosh on those rotters that would stop a chap’s fun… I’m not going to say that sort of thing would happen. I am going to say that I won’t be surprised if the representative of the establishment who looks to the very firmly huntin’ and shootin’ enjoying current government for titles and knighthoods comes down on the side of the keeper. You know what I’m saying?

  9. 16 Joe
    June 12, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    With all the illegal persecution of raptors going on at the hands of both pheasant and grouse-shooting estates, it would send a very dangerous signal if this case is won by the shooters. 35 million-plus non-native pheasants are reared and released every single year for shooting. Not only is this an immense number of farmed birds but it’s also bound to have a massive impact on other birds through competition for food. 35 million pheasants will eat insects, seeds, plants-even reptiles- and other food sources for wild birds, something which I have not heard being discussed much.

    Why on earth our wildlife should be persecuted for possibly taking a few of these 35 million plus pheasants to survive is beyond me. I’m not convinced its many that are caught -Buzzards mostly scavenge/eat small prey and Sparrowhawks are too small to take pheasants. Many more will be killed on the roads than taken by raptors. Young pheasants, that might be vulnerable, are reared in heated pens anyway and would not be susceptible to predation.

    If this case is won, there should be protests at the shooting estate and at the offices of the National Gamekeepers’ Association for their greed and destruction. In very few other professions would you be able to get favours from the law after having been convicted of related crimes and this country needs to start taking its responsibility towards wildlife seriously, handing down proper sentences and ignoring the strident whingeing of the shooting lobby. They won’t be happy until we’re back in the Victorian era of gamekeeper’s gibbets, local extinctions and no predators in much of the countryside. Red Kite and Goshawk, Pine Martens, Buzzards, Ravens and others still reclaiming their old range in recent years and we need to keep it that way. If you have to break the law to do a job, you shouldn’t do the job.

    • 17 Me
      June 13, 2015 at 11:06 pm

      I totally agree with you Joe,but for one thing and that is the Victorian era of prejudice is still will us.Where there is money,wealth,profit from environmental and banking scams then our so called “Laws” are always written in such a manner to give those involved a “get a way with it ” clause.How else can they protect themselves and their mates from making sure they don’t end up mixing with “villains ” in Her Majesty’s establishments.
      Decent people are trying to protect “wild life” in this country and around the World where some people think it’s okay to kill a defenceless animal and call it such things as a sport,hobby,past time and now a ” license ” to actually be allowed to kill ” a protected species ” How sad. Could it be the gamekeeper is getting withdrawal symptoms from not being able to “eradicate ” the threat to his stock by alleged illegal means and is therefore seeking permission to return to his alleged “skill” and then he can return to being a ” happy bunny” again,as will his ” masters”
      If NE do grant the license it will be a very sad day.
      Wonder if the media will inform the ” viewers at home” about this one. Naw probably not,yet again.

  10. 18 John Miles
    June 14, 2015 at 8:46 am

    As I have said before 3 million pheasants killed each year on the roads. Each one is caused by these estates releasing these birds. Each one should have a road accident report filling the police with 3 million more bits of paper work. Who would win then! Every incident deserves a court case against the estate causing stress to the driver not to mention damage to cars. In time you would bankrupt the estates. Get your claims in!

    • 19 nirofo
      June 14, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      I wonder how many of these Pheasant losses to car impacts belong to Northumberland gamekeeper Ricky McMorn, maybe he should count them and let the judge know. Perhaps he can apply for a licence to have cars removed from the road because they are killing his Pheasants and affecting his livelihood. I hope the judge at this hearing has more common sense than to listen to such nonsense from a moaning gamekeeper and his equally moaning supporters in the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, it’s obvious they are on a mission to set a precedent by overcoming the wildlife protection laws with this trumped up claim of excessive Pheasant losses to Buzzards. Anyone with half a brain who has any knowledge of how nature works can work out for themselves that this is a total load of whitewash.

      • 20 Marco McGinty
        June 14, 2015 at 11:18 pm

        The following link to Martin Harper’s blog will be crucial for a full understanding of my comment, so please refer to it, and when mentioned, the document number(s)

        Firstly, nirofo, we may never know the entire truth on the pheasant/roads issue, because McMorn was somewhat contradictory regarding this issue. I mentioned his contradictions in my comments back in 2013, but I honestly do believe they are worth repeating. In document 2728, it was stated that;

        “The applicant claims that in addition to actual predation, the raptors force his poults out of the pen areas and ‘home’ woods, making them vulnerable to other risks such as road traffic and exposure to extreme weather.”

        Now, that must be quite a sight to behold. Sadistic Buzzards getting their kicks by chasing innocent Pheasants out on to the road network, to be mown down by cars and other vehicles. I’m not sure if I can place any belief in such a scenario, and my scepticism is justified by the following statement;

        “None of the release pens are adjacent to or near to roads and losses to road traffic is not seen as being a contributory factor in the losses, as there are few roads crossing the shoot areas and the few roads present are quiet rural roads.”

        As a result of those two statements alone, some would say that they are contradictory, whereas some would say that McMorn, and the supportive National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, are just plain liars.

        Anyway, there are lots of interesting snippets in this one document alone. Admittedly, I am not a legal expert, but I do believe that once a pheasant has been released, or escaped, from its pen, it is no longer considered as livestock, and it can only be described as livestock when in a pen or rearing shed. So, let’s look back at document 2728, and analyse some of the comments;

        Section 5, Evaluation, Raptor observations
        “The family of buzzards then remain in the nest site area and start to feed on the poults when they are released.”
        “The applicant states he has seen buzzard and sparrowhawk actually taking the pheasant poults both when they are in the pens and on the outside of the pens.”
        “The photographs did not provide conclusive evidence of raptor predation, although did show a sparrowhawk feeding on a poult carcase.”

        The first two statements are noteworthy, as they both relate to incidents outside of the pens, and it would be interesting to learn if the Sparrowhawk predation incident was in or outside of a pen.

        Further on in the document, we have the following statements;

        “The main concerns he has are the predation of poults both in and out of the pens by buzzards”
        “Common buzzard start to feed on the poults when they are released in July-September. The heaviest predation is reported to be in early September, possibly coinciding with newly fledged buzzards beginning to hunt more effectively for themselves.”
        “In previous years the applicant has reported that sparrowhawk predation is worst when the poults are first released, with the sparrowhawks then being driven off by buzzards.”
        “The applicant claims that in addition to actual predation, the raptors force his poults out of the pen areas and ‘home’ woods, making them vulnerable to other risks such as road traffic and exposure to extreme weather.”
        “He also believes that predation causes increased movement of pheasants between the shoots.”
        “This results in the more variable returns seen by each shoot compared to the relatively consistent returns in the past, as well as the decline in overall return (for all ???? shoots) which is attributed to raptor predation.”

        So, there we have it in black and white. The application to kill Buzzards and Sparrowhawks was supposed to “Prevent damage to livestock”, yet we have some clear evidence that much of this alleged predation activity of “livestock”, occurred after the birds had been released. If the pheasants are outside the pens, they are not considered as livestock, so the case should be thrown out of court, and an example made of the applicant, as well as the duplicitous NGO.

        As usual, we have a gamekeeper wildly exaggerating the scale of predation, using a plethora of non-livestock incidents to deviously manipulate the figures, with the NGO providing full support for his catalogue of misinformation, or lies for a better word. And just in case anyone wasn’t sure, we have the following statement;

        “the applicant provided around ?? poult carcases, which were examined by Natural England and AHVLA……Of 35 carcases examined by ????? AHVLA , fewer than 5 had evidence of avian predation.”

        So, if fewer than 1 in 7 should any sign of avian predation, and we roll that percentage out to his total losses, it would appear that avian predation is nowhere near what McMorn and the NGO believe!

        There is so much more I could mention, on the contradictions and the hypocrisy of McMorn and the NGO, but I will leave it for another post.

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