A 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?