Archive for October, 2015

29
Oct
15

Vicarious liability prosecution: Andrew Duncan (Newlands Estate) part 2

scales-of-justiceBack in August we blogged (here) about a vicarious liability prosecution against Andrew Walter Bryce Duncan of Newlands Estate, Dumfriesshire.

The prosecution against Mr Duncan began after the conviction in August of Newlands Estate gamekeeper William (Billy) Dick, who was found guilty of illegally killing a buzzard by striking it with rocks and repeatedly stamping on it (see here). Dick was sentenced in September and received a £2,000 fine (here). It also emerged that the Newlands Estate was a member of Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) and an accredited member of SLE’s ‘Wildlife Estates Scotland’ initiative (see here).

The vicarious liability prosecution against Duncan continued last week with an intermediate diet at Dumfries Sheriff Court. Prior to that hearing, a provisional trial date had been set for 23rd November 2015.

However, at last week’s hearing the provisional trial date (November) was dumped and now a notional trial diet has been set for 18th January 2016. A notional trial diet just means that a formal trial date is likely to be set at that hearing.

So why the delay in the case against Mr Duncan? It may be because the gamekeeper, Billy Dick, is rumoured to be appealing his conviction, which if upheld could impact on the allegations against Mr Duncan. Although, confusingly, a vicarious liability prosecution is not dependent on the conviction of the person who committed the primary offence, but the prosecutor must demonstrate that the primary offence took place and that the offence was committed by a third party who has a specific relationship to the person being charged with vicarious liability (see here).

Clear? As mud. Guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens with the gamekeeper’s appeal.

28
Oct
15

Police appeal for info 5 months after peregrine nest robbery

South Yorkshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit are appealing for information following the theft of a peregrine chick from a nest site in Rotherham.

They have published two photographs of the suspect (caught on an RSPB surveillance camera).

The crime took place over five months ago on Friday 8th May.

Chief Inspector Martin Sims, head of the NWCU said: “The illegal trade in birds of prey is a UK wildlife crime priority….

Really.

The RSPB is offering a £1000 reward for information that leads to a conviction.

Police press release here

CCTV image 1_5

CCTV image 2_4

28
Oct
15

Ross-shire Massacre: local MSP tries again for review of police investigation

In November 2014, Dave Thompson, the local MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, wrote to the then Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Kenny MacAskill, to ask for a review of how Police Scotland had handled the investigation into the deaths of 22 raptors that had been found poisoned near Conon Bridge (the Ross-shire Massacre). The Police had been severely criticised for their handling of this case, not just for the investigation itself but also for what many of us believed to be an appalling media strategy. We blogged about it here.

Here is a copy of Dave Thompson’s letter to the Cabinet Secretary:

Dave Thompson MSP letter to Justice Sec

We didn’t hear anything further so an FoI was recently submitted to the Justice Department to find out what had happened.

It turns out that in December 2014 Mr MacAskill’s successor, Michael Matheson, had responded to Dave Thompson’s request by stating that he couldn’t comment about a live, on-going police investigation but suggested that Mr Thompson should raise any concerns with the Chief Constable. Here is a copy of Mr Matheson’s letter:

Justice Minister letter

Almost a year on from his first request, and with no sign that the Police investigation has made any progress in the 18 months since the dead birds were discovered (see here), Dave Thompson has now written to the Chief Constable of Police Scotland to urge him to issue an interim report on the first stages of the Police investigation of this case. His second request for a review was no doubt influenced by the recent release of an excellent short documentary video (see here) about the mass poisoning.

Dave Thompson MSP said: “I appreciate the need to await the full review into the investigation, especially as the case is live, and as such, we must be sensitive to the investigative process.

However, I feel enough time has elapsed that the general public are owed an explanation of where the case is at, which is why I have requested an interim review to be issued by Police Scotland, so we can see how the process has been handled in the early stages.

I have written to the Chief Constable and copied in the Chief Superintendent, Julian Innes, and the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, on the matter.

I look forward to hearing back from the Chief Constable as soon as is practically possible on what is an issue that still remains a concern to many of my constituents and beyond“.

Here is the transcript of his latest letter:

Dear Chief Constable,

Given the length of time that has passed and the failure to date to bring a culprit to justice, I am writing to ask if Police Scotland could issue an interim report on the first stages of the investigation, perhaps the first six months, into the raptor deaths around Conon Bridge. 

As you know there is considerable public anger at the incident and I believe this would go some way to helping people understand how seriously the Police are taking the investigation and the constraints you may have been under in the early stages.

Yours sincerely

Dave Thompson SNP MSP

END

27
Oct
15

Another powerful deterrent sentence in Spanish raptor poisoning case

Spanish Imperial Eagle TatavascoYou may recall earlier this year we blogged about a raptor poisoning case in Spain, where a farmer was convicted of laying out poisoned baits that killed at least 11 red kites, five dogs, six foxes, a cat, a raven, a buzzard and four vultures (see here).

He was sentenced to two years in prison, two years disqualification from farming or any other profession relating to animal husbandry (post release), four years disqualification from hunting (post release), a fine of 90,270 Euros plus an additional fine of 28,500 Euros to be used specifically to monitor red kites in the local are for the next three years.

That sentence sent out a clear message to would-be poisoners that the Spanish authorities would not tolerate such offences; a stark contrast with the pathetic sentences handed out in the UK.

And now they’ve done it again.

Another case of raptor poisoning (from January 2012) has just concluded with an astonishing sentence. A farmer has been convicted of laying out nine poisoned baits and of poisoning six Spanish Imperial Eagles and a fox. His crimes were uncovered following a search of his land by specialist canine units trained to detect poisons. His sentence is as follows:

18 months imprisonment

AND

a three-year disqualification from hunting (post release)

AND

a fine of 360,000 Euros (£259,762.62) to be paid to the regional government for the estimated value of the six eagles.

Incredible! A custodial sentence, a ban on hunting and more than a quarter of a million quid fine.

Are you paying attention, Scottish & Westminster Governments? THIS is how to send a message that raptor persecution won’t be tolerated.

Article here.

Photo of Spanish Imperial Eagle by Tatavasco

27
Oct
15

Vicarious liability: contravention of human rights?

waneThe use of vicarious liability legislation is extremely topical right now, especially as we recently learned there was to be no vicarious liability prosecution in the Kildrummy case. We currently await a response from Police Scotland to explain why the legislation wasn’t enforced in this case (see here).

A couple of days ago a Cambridge University academic, Dr Findlay Stark, contacted us on Twitter to discuss his views about the vicarious liability legislation and whether it was in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Dr Stark is a lecturer in criminal law and specialises in the philosophical/theoretical aspects of this field. Rather than conduct an unsatisfactorily abbreviated discussion on Twitter, we asked him to consider writing a blog about this issue. He has done so, and it’s a fascinating read.

Dr Stark’s stance is that the current legislation may violate the human rights of the accused in a vicarious liability case. It’s important to point out that Dr Stark’s position is genuinely independent. There’s no hidden agenda for or against landowners/estate managers or conservationists; it’s a purely academic viewpoint and this gives some weight to his arguments.

He provides much food for thought and it’ll be interesting to see whether his recommendation is acted upon by the defence agent in the next vicarious liability prosecution.

Read his blog here

23
Oct
15

Mick Carroll: obituary

Mick CarrollWe are sad to hear of the passing of Mick Carroll.

Anyone involved with bird of prey protection in northern England in the last few decades would have known, or known of, Mick Carroll. For those who didn’t know him personally, you missed a treat, but you’ll know of his work, without knowing it was his work, if you’ve ever heard anything about the fight against raptor persecution in the English uplands.

The following obituary has been written by his friends and colleagues in the Northern England Raptor Forum (NERF).

MICK CARROLL: 26 August 1947 – 21 October 2015

Mick was born in Lancashire in 1947. He was adopted by John and Edith Carroll when he was six months old and spent his formative years in Colne where he went to the local primary school with his life-long friend, Clive Hartley.

Mick was introduced to the natural environment by his father when he was still a young boy. He was only 5 or 6 years old when they left their industrial home together and made their first trip to the nearby Bouldsworth Moor where he recalls seeing Ring Ouzel, Common Sand Piper and Short-eared Owls. Mick recalls, ‘I didn’t have bins in those days, everything was done by skeg o’t eye’. He would have to wait another six years before he got his first pair of 8 x 32 binoculars, which cost the princely sum of 6.10 shillings. That was a huge amount of money back then; half of the average weekly wage for a manual worker and the equivalent of £136 today. Not a bad gift for a 12 year old. With or without binoculars that first trip to Bouldsworth Moor awakened an all embracing interest in ornithology.

At 15 years of age Mick started work on a local hill farm and joined the Royal Air Force when he was 19. After completing his basic training he became a member of the RAF Regiment, as a gunner. He was initially posted to the RAF Depot at Catterick, North Yorkshire before serving in Bahrain and Cyprus. His next posting took him to Germany where he was involved in helicopter based mobile air operations with the British Army of The Rhine. Shortly after returning to the UK Mick was posted to British Honduras, now known as Belize before his last overseas posting took him to Northern Ireland. Whilst stationed there he suffered a back injury that would eventually force him out of military service at just 30 years of age.

Having left the military Mick moved to Pickering with his wife of 44 years, Helene, and returned to farming. He took an initial course at the agricultural college in Ponteland before moving to Durham to complete a course in farm management.

After qualifying from Durham his first farm job took him to Winteringham. Mick recalls, ‘That’s where I first came into contact with a murderous gamekeeper who shot out a Kestrel nest’. Mick found one of the young that had survived and took it home and cared for it. The bird was released back to the wild once it was fit to fly. Mick decided that if this behaviour towards birds of prey was the norm on the estate he would never be happy there and soon moved on. He spent the next few years farming in North Yorkshire before his old back injury forced him out of the industry. He took a job as Trees Officer with Scarborough Council monitoring Dutch elm disease. Six months later he moved on again.

His next job, with English Country Cottages, allowed him to travel the length and breadth of the North of England and that gave him the opportunity to intensify his passion for bird watching. Coincidentally at the end of the contract with English Country Cottages his military pension increased substantially thereby allowing him to become a full-time birder. He then took on a role at the Blacktoft Sands RSPB Reserve for 12 months and developed a special interest in birds of prey.

This expanded interest led him to monitoring raptors on the North York Moors, initially in the Dalby and Langdale Forests. He was subsequently invited to join the North York Moors Upland Bird [Merlin] Study Group with whom he was involved for many years. Mick had maintained his contact with the RAF Regiment and his love of the natural environment and his determination to protect that environment led to an invitation to join the RAF Fylingdales Conservation Group. Within this Group he was called upon to advise the contractors who were responsible for dismantling the ‘golf balls’. Prior to the structural changes taking place Mick and the team installed a nest box scheme on the base. He continued to provide advice on the environmental management of the site after the work had been completed.

In addition to his conservation commitments at RAF Fylingdales, Mick took on the roles of President of Scarborough Field Naturalists, Chairman of the Ryedale Naturalists, Regional Representative for the BTO, Executive Committee member of the Whitby Naturalists Club and member of the Yorkshire Naturalists’ Union.

When he was not fulfilling his duties with the various conservation groups, Mick and Helene traveled extensively birdwatching across the UK and wider afield including a trip to Israel to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and more recently a trip to the Middle East birdwatching in the Dhofar region of Oman.

Mick first encountered Hen Harriers, by chance, on the north-western plain of Germany. At the time he was serving with the RAF and had just bought a local bird guide from the NAAFI. He went to check out the local bird of prey population when he saw his first Hen Harrier. That was the start of his obsession with the species which never left him. Back in the UK, years later, he joined the Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Project as a volunteer working alongside Stephen Murphy.

Mick didn’t only confine his harrier commitment to Hen Harriers and when Montagu’s Harriers made a second attempt to breed in North Yorkshire he was at the forefront, managing the nest monitoring and protection scheme. Mick was on guard duty every day for two months. This extraordinary commitment put him in bed for the best part of a week but he considered the effort a small price to pay when two chicks fledged from the site.

Mick first attended NERF meetings as a member of the North York Moors Raptor Study Group. However; his greatest achievement within NERF was the formation of the South Ryedale and East Yorkshire Raptor Study Group, which added both a huge geographical expanse to the overall study area and an influx of colleagues dedicated to monitoring and protecting birds of prey.

Since joining NERF he has used his expertise assisting colleagues to organise NERF conferences and has represented NERF on the DEFRA- led Buzzard Stakeholder Group. He was always available to represent NERF and his expertise was regularly sought by journalists and broadcasters.

In a moment of reflection and with typical candour Mick said, “I am really proud to have been a part of NERF but we need to be more politically active if we are to protect our iconic birds of prey. Raptors are under continued and serious threats, particularly from the game shooting industry, which should have been confined to history long ago. NERF is the leading voluntary NGO speaking collectively for raptors and we must continue to work together to ensure that they have a safe future, free from persecution. We will only achieve that goal if we hold successive Governments to account. They have a ‘duty of care’ for our shared environment and they often fail in that duty. When Government departments fail birds of prey, NERF is there to work with like-minded NGOs to challenge decisions that will have a negative impact on raptors. Long may that continue.”

Memories of Mick:

“Michael loved birds and the people who are involved in their conservation. He was a dear friend and a valued Natural England volunteer who played an invaluable part in the study and protection of Hen Harriers. Our thoughts are with Helene and his family”. Stephen Murphy, Natural England Hen Harrier Recovery Team

RSPB staff seconded to the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project [LMDP] really enjoyed his two visits to Langholm Moor in 2015. Despite his illness, he made a tremendous contribution to the task of locating nests on the moor, whilst the Hen Harriers displayed overhead. It was an immensely enjoyable day for everyone. He made a very valuable contribution to the protection of birds of prey in general and Hen Harriers in particular. He leaves a void that will be difficult to fill“. Staffan Roos, RSPB.

‘Larger than life’ is a phrase often used when talking about someone, but rarely is it as apt as when describing Mick Carroll. Mick was large in life and large in the field of nature, his love of birds, of their variety and their diverse behaviour was his passion and brought him endless hours of enjoyment in the field and in his armchair.

Mick was a fighter and has been fighting for the rights of birds for many years, in particular the rights of Hen Harriers to nest and raise their young in the hills of northern England without persecution. This fight is not over but will be carried on sadly without Mick, a man who was truly larger than life. He leaves a great legacy of surveyors, researchers, campaigners and friends in his wake.

Mick came up against an even more pernicious opponent in cancer, a fight he lost but not without bringing his own style to the proceedings; he organised and attended his own wake, a wake with so many friends from the BTO, RSPB, HOT, NERF, Forestry Commission, Natural England, RAF, local Naturalist clubs and neighbours that the Hospice where it was held ran out of visitors badges! Mick Carroll truly was larger than life“. Graham Oliver, SPREYRSG.

The phone rings, the voice of the caller is gruff with a Yorkshire accent and he utters just two words “Now then!” It can only be one person in my world of friends and contacts: Mick Carroll.

I first encountered Mick at an AGM of the North York Moors Forest Bird Study Group, I was late getting to Pickering; I grabbed a pint and went upstairs to the meeting room. Just inside the door a voice said, “You’re late!” That was it; no more, no less, the Hon Sec. had spoken. I suppose that was about 15 years ago.

Mick joined the BTO in 1991 and became Regional Rep for Yorkshire [North East] in 2001. Since then our conversations have become longer that two words, much longer!

As RRs in Yorkshire we have had plenty to talk about and of course for me Mick’s mantra has always been: “We do things our way in Yorkshire, don’t we Mike?” and a slight variation “There’s only one way of doing things and that’s the Yorkshire way!”

However, Mick is a force to be reckoned with, he takes no prisoners as the saying goes and his no nonsense approach to bird protection is refreshing, especially regarding raptors. He has been a tremendous driving force in making the BTO Yorkshire Conference a bi-annual event and although his health has prevented him from being fully involved recently, I very much appreciate his skills as a speaker finder. He must have a good contact book!

Finally, I have an enduring memory of his reaction to a menu selection at a Regional Reps’ weekend away, Main Course: Lasagne, Risotto or Vegetation option. Mick: “Foreign Muck!” That was my friend, Mick“. Mike Brown, BTO Regional Representative for Yorkshire Central.

Mick’s commitment to the protection of birds of prey across the North of England is legendary. He was instrumental in forming the SPREYRSG and overseeing the Group integration in to the Northern England Raptor Form. As you would expect NERF is full of bird of prey experts and Mick was first amongst equals. He was also a man of contradiction. He used his undoubted skill and endless contact list to make projects happen. There was no ‘no’ in Mick’s vocabulary; no compromise. When there was work to do, it was done. Then when it was finished, there was no self-congratulation, just quietly, then not so quietly, moving on to the next protection job. I have been involved in many BoP protection schemes and if I ever got stuck I would simply ask myself ‘what would Mick do?’

Mick has decided that his last contribution to protecting birds of prey will be to haunt the persecutors; the raptor killers. The list is long Mick; no rest for you mate“. Steve Downing, Calderdale Raptor Study Group, NERF.

22
Oct
15

Red sky on the Black Isle: new film on the Ross-shire Massacre

A short, 12 minute film has been released about the 2014 Ross-shire Massacre, the mass illegal poisoning of 22 red kites and buzzards.

Entitled ‘Red Sky on the Black Isle’, this is an excellent film and includes interviews with some of the key individuals involved with the investigation which, as you’ll know, still remains unsolved 19 months on (see here).

Watch the film here

Rossshire Massacre film

20
Oct
15

No vicarious liability prosecution for Kildrummy Estate

Last month we blogged about whether anyone from the Kildrummy Estate in Aberdeenshire would face a vicarious liability prosecution for the criminal actions of Kildrummy gamekeeper George Mutch.

Mutch, as you may recall, was convicted in December 2014 for various wildlife crimes he committed on the Kildrummy Estate in August and September 2012, including the trapping of a goshawk which he then beat to death with a stick (see here). In January 2015, Mutch was sentenced to four months in prison; a landmark custodial sentence for a raptor-killing gamekeeper (see here).

In September 2015 we noticed that time was running out for a subsequent potential vicarious liability prosecution because after three years from the date the crime was committed, the case becomes ‘time-barred’ and a prosecution is no longer possible. We decided to ask the Crown Office for information about any pending vicarious liability prosecution (see here) but to be honest, we weren’t expecting much of a response.

However, the Crown Office has surprised us by issuing the following unusually open response:

Wildlife and environmental crime is a priority for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. Such cases are investigated and prosecuted by our specialist Wildlife and Environmental Crime Unit, WECU. A report was submitted by the police against George Mutch alleging the unlawful taking and killing of birds of prey by him at Kildrummy Estate, Aberdeenshire in dates in August and September 2012 and considered by WECU. Following further investigation, a criminal prosecution was raised. Mr Mutch pled not guilty but was convicted of the offences after trial and in January 2015 he was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

Despite further investigations including investigations which focused on establishing vicarious liability, no-one else has been reported to COPFS in relation to the events which took place in Kildrummy Estate in 2012 and accordingly, no further prosecution, including any prosecution for a vicarious liability offence, has taken place“.

FAILSo, just to be clear, a vicarious liability prosecution is not underway, and as this case has now become time-barred (because the offences were committed in Aug/Sept 2012), as we understand it there won’t be a vicarious liability prosecution for this case in the future. Massive fail.

This will be a huge disappointment to all those who have been following this particular case, and especially for those who worked so hard to secure the initial conviction of Mutch. But perhaps more importantly, this is yet further evidence that the new and much-lauded Government measures to tackle raptor persecution are simply not working as well as they should be.

So what went wrong, and what are the potential ramifications for future vicarious liability prosecutions?

Let’s go back to that statement from the Crown Office, and particularly the first part of the sentence in the last paragraph:

Despite further investigations including investigations which focused on establishing vicarious liability, no-one else has been reported to COPFS…..”

It’s clear from this that attempts were made to identify somebody for a vicarious liability prosecution. There are at least three possible explanations for what happened next:

  1. An individual was identified but they were able to show that they had exercised ‘due diligence‘ in that they had written records demonstrating that they did not know the offences were being committed AND they had taken all reasonable steps AND exercised all due diligence to prevent the offences being committed. This is possible, of course, but in this particular case is fairly implausible given that during the trial, Mutch was asked, quite pointedly by the Fiscal Tom Dysart, whether he had received training [from his employer/supervisor] for the use of his traps, to which Mutch had replied ‘No’. Given Mutch’s claim, if his employer/supervisor had subsequently claimed due diligence as a defence to a vicarious liability prosecution, the case should have been heard in court where the Fiscal could challenge the veracity of the employer’s/supervisor’s claims.
  2. Police Scotland ran out of time for their investigation. This is plausible, seeing as Mutch was only convicted in December 2014 leaving just nine months before the case became time-barred. Having said that, if this is what happened it would reflect badly on Police Scotland because they should have been thinking about, and planning for, a potential vicarious liability prosecution way back in 2012 when they were first made aware of these crimes. The legislation enabling vicarious liability prosecutions was enacted on 1st January 2012, to much public fanfare, so the police can hardly claim they didn’t know about it at the time they were initially investigating these crimes in September 2012.
  3. It was impossible for Police Scotland to identify a suspect for a potential vicarious liability prosecution due to the complexity of ownership at Kildrummy Estate. On the one hand, this seems a pretty implausible explanation. Mutch, surely, knew who employed him and who paid his wages. But on the other hand, this explanation could be highly plausible given the convoluted information about ownership of the Kildrummy Estate as revealed by Andy Wightman’s excellent investigation earlier this year – see here. If this is indeed what happened in this case, it has far-reaching implications for future vicarious liability prosecutions. All an estate owner has to do to avoid a potential prosecution is register his/her land in an offshore tax haven because then the landowner becomes untraceable. Genius. For a fascinating and detailed explanation of how these tax havens work, and how the Scottish Government has so far refused to legislate against them despite recommendations, have a read of Andy’s latest blog – here.

Given the faith that the Environment Minister has placed in the use of vicarious liability prosecutions as an effective tool to tackle illegal raptor persecution (and thus sees no need to introduce further measures), and given the failure to prosecute in this particular case, as well as the huge public interest, an explanation is required about what did (or didn’t) happen here. The Crown Office has said it didn’t prosecute because Police Scotland didn’t report anybody for a potential vicarious liability prosecution. So, the next port of call for an explanation has to be Police Scotland. They can’t use their usual get out clause of saying ‘Sorry, can’t comment, it’s a live investigation’ because this case is no longer live. It’s very much dead in the water. So will they show some transparency and accountability here? Let’s hope so.

To ask Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham why nobody was reported for a vicarious liability prosecution in relation to raptor persecution crimes at Kildrummy Estate in 2012, please email: ACC.CrimeMCPP@scotland.pnn.police.uk

20
Oct
15

Two short-eared owls shot dead nr grouse moor in County Durham

Durham Police are appealing for information following the discovery of two dead short-eared owls in Co Durham.

The birds, found on 2nd March, had been shoved inside a pothole near to Selset Reservoir near Middleton-in-Teesdale. Their corpses were sent for post mortem which revealed they had been shot.

News article in the Chronicle here

You have to wonder why it’s taken the police seven months to appeal for information. It’s possible that there was a delay in receiving the post mortem results, but even so, the discovery of two owls inside a pothole surely raises suspicions of criminal behaviour? It’s ironic that the police appeal is eventually made during National Wildlife Crime Aware Week, where police forces across the country are advising the public how to spot signs of wildlife crime and encouraging them to report it. What’s the bloody point if the police then sit on the information for seven months?

Interesting to look at the land-use close to Selset Reservoir…..check out this Google map and note all those weird rectangular shapes (burnt strips of heather) – this is driven grouse moor country.

Ban driven grouse shooting: sign the petition here.

Photos of the two dead short-eared owls by RSPB.

Selset reservoir shot SEOs

SEO_shot_CoDurham_Mar2015a

SEO_shot_CoDurham_Mar2015b

19
Oct
15

Stody Estate subsidy penalties: another update

IMG_4752 (2) - CopyA year ago, gamekeeper Allen Lambert was convicted of a series of wildlife crime offences on the Stody Estate in Norfolk, including the mass poisoning of birds of prey (10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk) which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013 (see here and here).

We found out that the Stody Estate had received millions of pounds worth of agricultural subsidies (i.e. money given to them from our taxes to help them farm on the condition they look after the wildlife and wildlife habitats under their management) and we wanted to find out whether the Estate would now face a financial penalty in the form of a reduction in their subsidies for what was a very serious breach of the cross-compliance regulations.

One year later and we’re still trying to find out.

In October 2014, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) told us they “would consider action against Stody Estate“, although one of our blog readers was told, “there is no investigation ongoing” (see here).

In December 2014, one of our blog readers contacted the RPA again to ask for an update. The RPA responded in January 2015 by saying “We are unable to provide you with any meaningful response as we do not hold any information that answers your questions” (see here).

In July 2015, we again wrote to the RPA to ask whether they had imposed a penalty on Stody Estate. We were told that as the convicted gamekeeper wasn’t the actual subsidy recipient, the RPA was trying to determine whether there was “a link” between the convicted gamekeeper and the subsidy recipient (i.e. his employer) and if so, whether the recipient (Stody Estate) could be considered liable for the actions of the gamekeeper (see here). Amazing.

As the one-year anniversary of the gamekeeper’s conviction approached, in September 2015 we wrote to the RPA again to see whether they’d now worked out “a link” between the convicted employee and his employer. Last week they responded with this:

The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has notified the Stody Estate in Norfolk that a cross compliance breach occurred, as [sic] result of the actions of their gamekeeper. This is because the estate is vicariously liable for the actions of their employees. Under European cross compliance rules, the RPA is obliged to follow-up reports of cross compliance breaches brought to its attention. The rates of applicable reductions are explained in the scheme rules“.

So, the inefficient RPA has taken a year to decide that there was a cross compliance breach, but we still don’t know whether a financial penalty has been imposed, and if it has, what its value is.

According to the RPA’s ‘scheme rules’, cross compliance breaches can be categorised  as either ‘negligible’ or ‘intentional’, and the severity of the penalty is dependent on this.

For negligible non-compliance (falls below the standard of care expected of a competent claimant) subsidy payment is normally reduced by 3% but could range from 1-5% depending on the extent, severity, re-occurrence and permanence of the non-compliance.

For intentional non-compliance, payments will normally be reduced by 20%, but may be reduced to 15% or increased to 100% depending on the extent, severity, re-occurrence and permanence of the non-compliance.

What do you think? Is laying out banned poisons that kill 11 raptors a negligible or intentional non-compliance?

Given that we don’t know how the RPA will determine if the breaches were negligible or intentional, and given that we don’t know how much of our money was awarded to the Stody Estate in 2013 (the year the breaches occurred), although judging by the amounts they received between 2004-2012 it was probably a considerable sum (see here), it’s difficult for us to establish even a rough guesstimate of what the penalty might be, and that’s assuming that the RPA has decided a penalty is warranted.

So, we’ve written, again, to the RPA to ask whether a penalty has been imposed (and if not, why not) and if it has been imposed, how much is it?




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