Another hearing set for Raeshaw Estate’s judicial review (General Licence restriction)

Regular blog readers will know we’ve been writing about the General Licence (GL) restriction order placed on Raeshaw Estate (a grouse moor estate near Heriot in the Scottish Borders) for some time (see here for a summary). The restriction order was implemented due to alleged raptor persecution incidents reportedly taking place on the Estate (according to evidence provided by Police Scotland), even though nobody has been charged with any criminal offence and the Estate has denied any responsibility.

This restriction order, placed by SNH in November 2015, has been on and off for months, temporarily suspended and then reinstated as Raeshaw Estate mounted various legal challenges over the following months.

Currently, the GL restriction order is back in place, although SNH has issued a number of ‘individual’ licences permitting the Estate to continue with many activities that are supposed to have been restricted (see here).

Raeshaw Estate has launched a judicial review of the process that SNH used to issue a General Licence restriction order. We’re not that clear about the judicial review process in Scotland but here’s what we’ve managed to work out so far:

In April 2016, Raeshaw Estate petitioned for a judicial review.

In May or June 2016, the Court of Session granted permission for the judicial review to go ahead.

Another court date has now been set for a ‘procedural hearing’ on 3rd November 2016:


Our limited understanding is that this ‘procedural’ hearing is when the scope and duration of any later ‘substantive’ hearing will be decided.

This judicial review is an important test case with potentially far-reaching consequences. If the court decides that SNH acted fairly, then presumably SNH will get on with issuing other General Licence restrictions to other estates where Police Scotland has evidence of raptor persecution incidents having taken place since 1 January 2014 (there must be quite a backlog by now). Although it could be argued that if SNH continues to then issue ‘individual’ licences to those penalised estates, the purpose and effectiveness of the original General Licence restriction order is lost.

If the court decides that SNH acted unfairly in imposing a General Licence restriction order, then either the process for implementing a GL restriction order will have to be revised or the scheme scrapped altogether. If it’s scrapped, that’ll leave the Scottish Government in an interesting position. What next for addressing the never-ending cycle of raptor persecution?

10 Responses to “Another hearing set for Raeshaw Estate’s judicial review (General Licence restriction)”

  1. 1 Jack Snipe
    September 4, 2016 at 11:38 am

    If it’s possible for such legal obfuscation to take place over what appears to be a relatively open and shut case, I’d say this suggests we have a very long and difficult fight ahead of us to rectify the lack of legal enforcement against raptor persecution. It’s time to adopt more serious tactics. This is in no way a criticism of RPUK, which I understand is a blog produced by someone entirely in their own time and presumably largely at their own expense. It is a monumental and remarkable effort, and appreciated by many people. It has advanced he cause very significantly. However what frightens me is the level of apathy among most birdwatchers and even professional ornithologists, especially RSPB members. That organisation is clearly not doing its job in raising awareness, or providing any lead to its members on what to do to further the cause of nature conservation in a democratic society. The campaign needs to build greater public support to succeed in the long run, and I have to say that so far I’ve found Hen Harrier Days that I’ve attended in Scotland have been very disappointing, held at remote places with minimal engagement with the general public (or the shooting set), just a bunch of raptor lovers getting together in a slightly disorganised social manner, and making remarkably little impact apart from a bit of internal bonding. Tombola stalls and childrens’ games are not the answer. We need to get serious.

    • 2 4foxandhare
      September 4, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Thank you for your response to the RPUK blog. What you have to say regarding your fears about the level of apathy is very true, as is your worry about it’s failing to raise sufficient public awareness, or provide any lead to its members, etc. I live too far away to attend any Hen Harrier Days but it saddens me that you find them disappointing.
      How would you feel about offering your services to RPUK, as a PR consultant? This is a genuine suggestion. Please think about it.

      [Ed: 4foxandhare, we don’t actually want or need a PR consultant!]

      • 3 Jack Snipe
        September 5, 2016 at 12:25 am

        4foxandhare, thank you for your kind words but I’m afraid I’m honestly too humble to regard myself as a PR consultant. It sounds as if the Editor realises I’m not up to the job anyway! Seriously though, I’m sure they don’t need my advice, especially as RPUK is, in my opinion, the best blog on the web that I know of. I’ll continue to make whatever contribution I can, on this and other discussion sites.

  2. 4 AnMac
    September 4, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    I understand the comments above as I have been aware for some time that we need to take the information given in this blog to a greater number of the public.

    To that end I have put together a powerpoint presentation which highlights the whole subject and have already delivered that to a ‘Braveheart’ group in central Scotland who found the whole subject disgusting.

    My next group will be a Probus club in the autumn which will be a completely different set of members of the public but one which contains quite an influential group of men who have been in business for much of their lives and can articulate their feelings quite well. I look forward to delivering my talk and enlightening them just what takes place in the UK and Irish Countryside.

    • September 5, 2016 at 8:42 am

      That is an excellent idea, AnMac – we do desperately need to get the general public involved.
      I used to give talks for my Quaker animal welfare group to similar lunch groups and, their having previously thought we British were a nation of ‘animal lovers’, they had their eyes opened a bit.

      • 6 AlanTwo
        September 5, 2016 at 10:17 am

        I think we need to make a clear distinction between the RPUK blog and the wider campaign against the killing of raptors and other wildlife.
        The RPUK blog is simply outstanding in the depth and breadth of it coverage of the issues, its moderate but authoritative tone and its evidence-led approach. In my view it deserves all our support, but does not need to change what it is doing at all, just keep it going.
        The wider campaign is a different matter, and needs all the help it can get. It will be a massive task to achieve real and significant change in the countryside. Attitudes will have to change in many areas – in the shooting fraternity, among the general public, in the media and in the political establishment. This will be a long job, and I think that PR professionals have expertise in areas that most of us, however great our commitment and however much field experience we may have, are sadly lacking.
        Preaching to the converted is important in keeping up morale, but sooner or later we are going to have reach out much more widely, using whatever tools are available.

    • 7 Les Wallace
      September 5, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Would you be interested in doing a talk in Falkirk District sometime? I’m hoping to organise a talk about beavers in Scotland next March, another one on raptor persecution would be brilliant. Please contact me on les@wallacerecyc.fslife.co.uk – this is exactly what we need. Thanks.

  3. 8 Adam
    September 5, 2016 at 12:44 am

    A procedural hearing is a hearing fixed under rule 58.11(1)(b) of the Rules of the Court of Session which is as follows:

    58.11.—(1) When permission is granted, the Keeper of the Rolls must, in consultation with the Lord Ordinary, fix (a) a date for the substantive hearing, which must be no later than 12 weeks from the date on which permission is granted, except where the Lord Ordinary is satisfied that a longer period is necessary; and (b) a date for the procedural hearing (unless the Lord Ordinary is satisfied that a procedural hearing is unnecessary), which must be no later than 6 weeks from the date on which permission is granted, except where the Lord Ordinary is satisfied that a longer period is necessary.

    Rule 58.12 describes the purpose of the procedural hearing:

    58.12.—(1) At the procedural hearing the Lord Ordinary must ascertain whether (a) the parties have complied with any order made under rule 58.11(2); and (b) the parties are ready to proceed to the substantive hearing. (2) At the procedural hearing the Lord Ordinary may make such order for further procedure as is appropriate for the speedy determination of the petition and in particular may make any of the orders listed in rule 58.11(2).

    The Lord Ordinary ‘must make orders for further procedure as are appropriate for the speedy determination of the petition’ under rule rule 58.11(2).

    See: https://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/rules-and-practice/rules-of-court/court-of-session-rules (Chapter 58 – Judicial Review)

    Shelter Scotland has a good article on judicial review:

    More detailed SPICe briefing: http://www.parliament.scot/ResearchBriefingsAndFactsheets/S5/SB_16-62_Judicial_Review.pdf

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