Posts Tagged ‘mevinphos

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?

20
Jul
15

Stody Estate subsidy penalties: an update

IMG_4752 (2) - CopyOn 1st October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert from the Stody Estate in Norfolk was found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk, which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides & other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’), and a firearms offence (see here and here).

On 6th November 2014, Lambert was sentenced. Even though the magistrate acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes passed the custody threshold, he only received a 10 week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and nine poisoned buzzards (suspended for one year), and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

On 5th October 2014, we blogged about the millions of pounds worth of subsidies that had been awarded to Stody Estate in recent years (see here) and we encouraged blog readers to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask whether Stody Estate would receive a financial penalty in the form of subsidy withdrawal for being in breach of the terms & conditions of their subsidy-fest.

On 10th October 2014, the RPA responded by saying they would consider what action could be taken against Stody Estate (see here).

Then it all went quiet.

In December 2014, one of our blog readers submitted an FoI to the RPA to ask what was happening. In January 2015, the RPA responded by saying they ‘weren’t able to provide a meaningful response’ but said they would take action if it was found to be appropriate to do so (see here).

Six months on, we thought it was time for an update so an FoI was sent to the RPA to ask whether they had implemented a subsidy penalty. This is their response:

Dear XXXXX XXXXX

Thank you for your email dated 5 July 2015 regarding Stody Estate.

Cross Compliance rules only apply to recipients of Single Payment Scheme or certain Rural Development scheme payment in the year in which a cross compliance breach is found.

The person prosecuted for the offences mentioned in your e-mail is not a recipient of either of these types of payment.  Therefore before RPA can take further action, it will be necessary to determine whether there [sic] a link between this person and a subsidy recipient and, if there is, whether that recipient can be considered liable for the actions of the person who committed the breaches.

Identifying whether the person prosecuted is linked to a subsidy recipient will form a key part of our investigations.

Should you have any further queries please contact us again quoting reference number XXXXX

Regards

Helen Hunter

Customer Service Centre, Operations

END

This is all very interesting. The mass illegal poisoning of birds of prey took place on Stody Estate and a Stody Estate employee, gamekeeper Allen Lambert, was convicted of these crimes and several others. But the Rural Payments Agency is still trying to determine whether there is a link between Lambert and the Stody Estate. Eh?

It’s not very convincing is it?

Perhaps the RPA should have a read of the judge’s comments about the relationship between Lambert and his (now former) employer – see here.

23
Feb
15

Scottish Government launches poisons disposal scheme

PoisonThe Scottish Government has today launched it’s promised ‘pesticides disposal scheme’ – a free service allowing those who are still in possession of these banned substances an opportunity to get rid of them without fear of consequence.

This scheme was initiated by former Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse whilst he was still in office.

We have mixed views about the scheme.

On the one hand, it’s a proactive approach to rid Scotland of highly toxic substances that are still being used, illegally, with devastating effect on some of our raptor species, notably golden eagles, red kites, peregrines and buzzards. Only yesterday we blogged about the latest victim  -a poisoned peregrine found on a grouse moor (see here).

On the other hand, many of these poisons have been banned for years, and even being in possession of them has been an offence since 2005 (Possession of Pesticides (Scotland) Order 2005), so why, ten years later, are the criminals who are still in possession of these poisons being given yet another opportunity to escape justice?

The bigger concern of these two views undoubtedly has to be that these poisons need to be removed, and that concern outweighs the lesser concern that the criminals won’t be punished, so from that perspective we welcome the new scheme.

However, what we want (expect) to see as a result of the scheme is that anybody caught with these poisons after the scheme has ended MUST be given a more serious sentence for their crime. We fully expect that even after this scheme has ended, there will still be substantial amounts of these poisons being held illegally. Why? Because the criminals who hold and use these poisons have been doing so for a long, long time, despite the legislation and despite previous amnesties, because they know there’s a good chance that they’ll get away with it. And for those who do get caught, the penalty is usually so ineffectual that the risk was worth taking anyway. Those people, when caught, must feel the full force of the law and not some pathetic fine or community service order – nothing less than a mandatory custodial sentence will do.

It’s not clear for how long the free disposal scheme will run, other than a quote from the current Environment Minister, Dr Aileen McLeod, that the scheme will be “short-lived”.

Those wishing to dispose of their banned poisons via this scheme can do so without fear of prosecution, and without their personal details being given to the authorities. The Government will be collecting data about the uptake of the scheme, but these data will be limited to the type and number of poisons handed in, the cost of the scheme, and only the first three letters of the postcode from where the poisons have been collected.

As this is a free and confidential service, there is absolutely NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for anyone to still be in possession of these poisons by the time the scheme ends. Mind you, it’s been that way for the past decade and yet….

Scottish Government press release here

Details about how to use the free disposal service here

Frequently Asked Questions about the scheme here

A list of the poisons that will be accepted by the scheme and a description of what they look like and some common generic names here

25
Jan
15

Subsidy penalty for Stody Estate?

stody buzzardsOn 1st October 2014, gamekeeper Allen Lambert from the Stody Estate in Norfolk was found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and one sparrowhawk, which had been found dead on the estate in April 2013. He was also convicted of storing banned pesticides & other items capable of preparing poisoned baits (a ‘poisoner’s kit’), and a firearms offence (see here and here).

On 6th November 2014, Lambert was sentenced. Even though the magistrate acknowledged that Lambert’s crimes passed the custody threshold, he only received a 10 week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and nine poisoned buzzards (suspended for one year), and was ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

On 5th October 2014, we blogged about the millions of pounds worth of subsidies that had been awarded to Stody Estate in recent years (see here) and we encouraged blog readers to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask whether Stody Estate would receive a financial penalty in the form of subsidy withdrawal for being in breach of the terms & conditions of their subsidy-fest.

On 10th October 2014, the RPA responded by saying they would consider what action could be taken against Stody Estate (see here).

Then it all went quiet.

One of our blog readers decided to submit an FoI to the RPA in December 2014, to see what was going on. Here is his letter:

12 DECEMBER 2014

To whom it may concern

I am making this request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.

The information I request relates to the conviction in October 2014 of Mr Allen Lambert, a gamekeeper employed by the Stody Estate, Melton Constable, Norfolk, NR24 2ER for illegally poisoning ten buzzards and a sparrowhawk.

I would be grateful if you could provide me with all the information you hold relating to the following questions:

  1. Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.
  2. Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.
  3. Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

XXXXX XXXXX

On 14th January 2015, the RPA responded with this:

14 JANUARY 2015

Dear XXXXX XXXXX

Re: Freedom of Information – Information Request

Thank you for your request for information dated 12 December 2014 which has been dealt with under Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FoIA).

You have asked:

‘1. Whether the RPA consider the illegal poisoning carried out by an employee of the Stody Estate as being in breach of Cross Compliance Statutory Management Requirement 1 – Wild Birds.’

‘2. Did the RPA investigate any breach of cross compliance at the Stody Estate relating to the illegal poisoning offence and what was the outcome of the investigation.’

‘3. Whether the RPA has imposed a fine on the Stody Estate’s Single Farm Payment, Environmental Stewardship Payment or any other public subsidy the estate receives and if so, how much.’

Having considered your request we regret that we are unable to provide you with any meaningful response as we do not hold any information that answers your questions. However, RPA would like to make clear that it is required to assess cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy claims based on intent, extent, severity, permanence and repetition of the non-compliance. We can assure you that RPA will take action, including cross compliance reductions to CAP subsidy payments applicable, if this is found to be appropriate.

In order to qualify for most CAP subsidy payments, claimants are required to keep their land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition and comply with a set of Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). This is known as cross compliance. One of the SMRs covers wild birds (SMR 1) and this includes a rule about killing, injuring or taking wild birds.

Further information is published on the GOV.UK website (Page 43 – deals with wild birds).

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/320833/The_Guide_to_Cross_Compliance_in_England_2014_complete_edition.pdf

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.

Yours sincerely

Rural Payments Agency

Not very helpful, is it?

Thanks to the blog reader who followed up with the FoI and shared the response with us. We understand the RPA can expect further FoIs until a satisfactory response is received. Watch this space….

Meanwhile, you might be interested to compare Lambert’s pathetic sentence with that of an anti-badger cull protester. Lambert was given a 10 week suspended sentence and ordered to pay £930 costs for the mass poisoning of protected birds, the illegal storage of banned poisons and a firearms offence. The badger cull protester, who breached the terms of an injunction designed to stop him disrupting badger culls (he filmed someone involved with the cull and stood outside the NFU office wearing a t-shirt that said: ‘FCK NFU’), was given a six month suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs that could amount to £55,000 (see here). The first installment of £25,000 is due on 1st May. A crowd-funding page has been set up for those who want to help – see here.

06
Nov
14

Stody Estate mass poisoner gets…..10 week suspended sentence

allen-lambert-stody-estateGamekeeper Allen Lambert, convicted of mass raptor poisoning at Stody Estate, Norfolk, has been given a 10 week suspended sentence for poisoning 11 raptors (suspended for one year), a six week suspended sentence for possession of firearms and dead buzzards (suspended for one year) and has been ordered to pay £930 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

This sentence will infuriate many. Lambert’s crimes contributed to one of the worst incidents of mass raptor poisoning in the UK. Although it’s not the worst incident, it’s right up there near the top of the list and is certainly the worst mass poisoning of raptors uncovered in England.

District Judge Peter Veits said Lambert’s crimes ‘had crossed the custody threshold’ but that his sentence would be suspended. Why? Sentencing is supposed to serve two purposes. It’s supposed to be a deterrent, not only to the convicted criminal, but also to others who may be contemplating committing the same crime. It’s also supposed to provide a punishment to the perpetrator for having acted criminally.

Does a suspended jail sentence meet any of these aims? No, it certainly does not.

What a wasted opportunity for the judiciary to send out a clear message to those who continue to commit abhorrent wildlife crimes. It’s so rare to actually get a conviction for poisoning; usually it’s the much lesser charge of ‘possession’ of banned poisons [in Scotland] or ‘storage’ of illegal poisons [in England] but here’s a gamekeeper who has been found guilty of actually poisoning 11 protected raptors. Sure, the judge’s sentencing options are constrained within statutory boundaries but the sentence in this case is nowhere near as strong as it could have been. Some of Lambert’s crimes are offences under the Wildlife & Countryside Act. Under this legislation, the maximum sentence, calculated for EACH offence is a £5,000 fine and a six month custodial sentence. That’s just for poisoning 11 birds – in Lambert’s case there are numerous other offences to consider, including firearms offences which usually carry a custodial sentence.

A suspended custodial sentence and a less than £1000 ‘fine’ (prosecution costs) for what Lambert did is absurdly lenient. According to the RSPB, since 2001, four gamekeepers have received suspended custodial sentences for persecution offences. During the same period, 12 egg collectors have actually been jailed. The inconsistency in wildlife crime sentencing is remarkable.

In Scotland there is currently a wildlife crime penalty review underway, at the behest of Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse. There is an opportunity for you to participate, by filling in a questionnaire which seeks views on whether penalties for wildlife crime offences in Scotland are sufficient deterrent. The closing date is 21 November. Full details here.

So, Lambert’s pretty much got off scot free, but what of his (now former) employers, the Stody Estate? According to the BBC, ‘there is no evidence the estate owner, Charles MacNicol, knew about the poisonings. He wouldn’t tell BBC News whether he knew, or whether he condemned the killings’. Lambert was not sacked by Stody Estate, but instead was allowed to take early retirement, according to ITV news.

What we do know is the Stody Estate has received millions in agricultural subsidies over the years (see here), and as a result of blog readers’ efforts, the Rural Payments Agency is understood to be investigating to see whether financial penalties can be applied for cross-compliance offences (see here).

UPDATE 8/11/14: Here are the judge’s comments on Lambert’s sentencing:  DJ Peter Veits sentencing 6 Nov 2014

Media coverage of Lambert’s sentencing

RSPB press release here

BBC news here

BBC news video here

RSPB Investigations blog here

Daily Mail here

ITV news here

Norfolk Eastern Daily Press here

Telegraph here

Guardian here

Independent here

Norfolk Constabulary press statement here

Lambert 9 bz

06
Nov
14

Sentencing due for Stody Estate mass poisoner

allen-lambert-stody-estateAllen Lambert, the mass poisoning gamekeeper from Stody Estate, Norfolk, will be sentenced today following his convictions last month.

What sort of sentence does a convicted mass poisoner deserve? He was found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and 1 sparrowhawk. He was found guilty of the illegal storage and use of some of the most dangerous pesticides in the world. He was found guilty of having equipment capable of being used to prepare poisoned baits. He was found guilty of having nine dead buzzards in his possession.

Let’s hope the magistrate views this case with the seriousness it deserves.

Previous blogs on this case here, here, here.

10
Oct
14

Rural Payments Agency ‘to consider action’ against Stody Estate

Five days ago we blogged about the millions of pounds of farming subsidies that have been given to Stody Estate over the last few years (see here). For new readers, Stody Estate was in the news last week because their (now former) gamekeeper, Allen Lambert, was found guilty of poisoning 11 raptors (10 buzzards and 1 sparrowhawk) on the estate, as well as other related poison offences (see here and here).

While we wait to find out Lambert’s sentence (due 6th November), we encouraged blog readers to contact the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) to ask whether any action would be taken against Stody Estate as the conviction implied they were in breach of the terms and conditions of their subsidy-fest.

Well done to all those who took the time to contact the RPA – we know from our site stats that at least 40 of you did.

To the RPA’s credit, they have responded very quickly. We’ve seen a number of the responses – some of which have already been shared as comments on this blog, and others which were shared with us privately via email.

From the RPA responses that we’ve seen, it looks as though the RPA is going to take a closer look at Stody Estate. The most common response has been as follows:

I can confirm that RPA will consider what action can be taken under the cross compliance rules in respect of the offences for which the gamekeeper was convicted“.

However, there was one RPA response that didn’t sound quite as promising:

RPA can confirm there is no investigation ongoing“.

Hmm.

As some commentators have already suggested, it’s worth keeping hold of the reference number given at the end of each of the RPA responses so that we can follow up in a few months time to see what action, if any, the RPA has taken.

Lambert 9 bz

05
Oct
14

The Stody Millions

Following the conviction of (former) Stody Estate gamekeeper Allen Lambert for the mass poisoning of birds of prey (see here and here), has anyone seen any sort of public statement or apology from the Stody Estate, Norfolk? We haven’t…

Lambert 9 bz

We noted with interest a comment from one of our readers (Rob – see here) who suggested asking the Rural Payments Agency whether they’ll be imposing a fine on Stody Estate Ltd’s Single Farm Payment due to a breach in Statutory Management Requirement 1. (See here for details of the cross compliance regulations).

We thought we’d have a look to see how many agricultural subsidies Stody Estate Ltd has received over the years (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). Here’s what we found a couple of days ago on the excellent Farm Subsidy website (although bizarrely, when we looked today we couldn’t find it) -:

2012. Direct payments under European Agricultural Guarantee Fund: 457,570 EUR

2012. European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: 274,710 EUR

2011. European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: 498,617 EUR

2011. Direct payments under European Agricultural Guarantee Fund: 427,449 EUR

2010. Direct payments under European Agricultural Guarantee Fund: 444,050 EUR

2010. European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: 190,052 EUR

2009. Rural development programmes: 113, 382 EUR

2009. Sugar Restructuring Fund: 58,102 EUR

2009. SPS (Single Payment Scheme): 345,027 EUR

2009. Additional amounts of aid: 139 EUR

2009. Irregularities EAGF – Assigned revenue: -842 EUR

2008. SPS (Single Payment Scheme): 366,524 EUR

2008. Rural development programmes: 135, 922 EUR

2008. Aid for energy crops: 3,630 EUR

2008. Additional amounts of aid: 232 EUR

2007. SPS (Single Payment Scheme): 356,453 EUR

2007. Aid for energy crops: 3,862 EUR

2007. Additional amounts of aid: 190 EUR

2007. Irregularities EAGF – Assigned revenue: -49 EUR

2006. SPS (Single Payment Scheme): 266,781 EUR

2006. Aid for energy crops: 1,053 EUR

2005. Area aid for producers of cereals, oilseeds, proteins, grass sileage and set aside: 254,699 EUR

2004. Aids for producers of cereals: 168,223 EUR

2004. Set-aside: 66,370 EUR

2004. Agri-environment-Farmer system (2000-2006): 39,030 EUR

2004. Aids for producers of peas, field beans & sweet lupins: 31,836 EUR

2004. Aids for producers of soya beans, rape seed & sunflower seed: 16,821 EUR

2004. Aids for producers of non-textile flax seed and hemp grown for fibre: 7,398 EUR

2004. Forestry – New system (2000-2006): 303 EUR

2004. Forestry – Former system (2000-2006): 294 EUR

2004. Other expenditure related to direct payments for arable crops: -30,722 EUR

In total, this amounts to 4,538,719 EUR (£3,549,122.60 GBP).

However, we also found something else on the Farm Subsidy website (which again, bizarrely, we cannot seem to find today). Another recipient was also listed whose address was given as Stody Estate Office, Melton Constable, NR24 2ER: a company by the name of GC & FC Knight Ltd. According to this website, GC & FC Knight Ltd was the former name of Stody Estate Ltd – it was changed to Stody Estate Ltd on 17th December 2002.

So how come, on the Farm subsidy website, GC & FC Knight Ltd are listed as having received 1,264,590 EUR (£991,049,56 GBP) between 2000-2004, if the company changed it’s name to Stody Estate Ltd in 2002?

All very strange. Unless of course the subsidies are paid two years in arrears? If anyone can enlighten us, please do!

Either way, it’s clear from these records that the people farming on Stody Estate have received millions in agricultural subsidies. In light of their gamekeeper’s conviction for mass poisoning using banned pesticides, it would be very interesting to find out if the Rural Payments Agency will be considering a substantial fine for breach of the subsidies regulations. Surely they have to show that wildlife crime doesn’t pay? You can ask them here: csc@rpa.gsi.gov.uk

UPDATE: 10 October 2014 – the Rural Payments agency responds here

02
Oct
14

More on gamekeeper Allen Lambert, convicted mass poisoner at Stody Estate

allen-lambert-stody-estateFollowing the conviction yesterday of Stody Estate’s former gamekeeper, Allen Lambert (see here), more details are emerging about this case.

Lambert had pleaded guilty to five other charges at an earlier hearing (three offences of illegal storage and use of pesticides and unlawful possession of nine buzzards –  see here). However, he had denied charges relating to the illegal killing of 11 raptors (10 buzzards & 1 sparrowhawk) and possession of pesticides and other items capable of being used to prepare poisoned baits. It was these denials that triggered yesterday’s trial at Norwich Magistrates Court.

Investigators had found a sack of nine poisoned buzzards on a quad bike, the banned pesticide Mevinphos in Lambert’s Land Rover, and another banned pesticide, Aldicarb, in his garage. One of the containers was a bucket with a syringe and a number of needles – the classic ‘poisoner’s kit’ used to inject poison into baits. More dead birds (including a tawny owl and five buzzards) were also found on the estate close to pheasant feeding bins but were too decomposed for analysis.

The prosecution argued that Lambert had poisoned the birds on the estate and the reason they were in a sack on a quad bike in an outbuilding at his house was because he was in the process of removing the evidence. Lambert claimed he hadn’t poisoned the birds at all – he said they’d been dumped on the estate by a dog-walker with a vendetta against him (yes, that old chestnut). He said the ‘poisoner’s kit’ had been left in his garage by a now-deceased friend (yes, another old chestnut). Lambert claimed he’d only once used the poison found in his vehicle, and that was seven years ago to kill a “tricky fox”.

Fortunately, District Judge Peter Veits said he found Lambert a non-credible witness. He said: “In short, I find his explanation of a vendetta against him implausible“. He went on to say that the only other explanation was that Lambert had indeed poisoned the birds and all the evidence pointed to that.

He adjourned sentencing until 6th November so background reports could be prepared. However, don’t hold your breath for a custodial sentence……the judge told Lambert that although the offences crossed the custody threshold, this would not necessarily mean he would be jailed  as he would take in to account “the total lack of supervision” and training he’d received from his employer.  Judge Veits said: “There would appear to be a complete lack of control over poisons on the estate” and “In many other ways your employers might have been in the dock themselves for some of these offences involving poison on their property“.

This “total lack of supervision” is an interesting suggestion. Several years ago (2008), the Field Sports Magazine published an article on Stody Estate in their ‘shoot review‘ section. Interestingly, since proceedings began against Lambert, this particular review has ‘disappeared’ from the Field Sports Magazine’s website. Luckily, we had already saved a copy and we reproduce it here. It provides a telling insight in to the relationship Lambert had with his employer, and the level of involvement that Lambert’s employer had with the game-shooting on the estate:

Fieldsports Magazine Shoot Review

Stody Estate, Norfolk

A few years ago, Mike Barnes was invited to shoot in North Norfolk. The shoot was new to him and as such the day carried the added element of surprise. And what surprise it turned out to be!

In January last year I was invited to shoot in North Norfolk. The shoot was new to me and as such the day carried the added element of surprise. And what surprise! While I have never paid any attention to those who dismiss Norfolk as boringly flat – they clearly don’t know the county – I was in awe on the third drive of the morning. Admittedly it was a breezy January day, but the pheasants which flew from Arabella’s were little short of spectacular. The Guns were lined out across a dip in front of the tiny village of Stody. A wood to one side, and another wood in front.

The first couple of cock pheasants to appear made an impressive entrance. More followed in equally majestic style. I was the end Gun on the right, and had four or five shots – all good sporting birds. But looking down the line towards the centre pegs at the base of the dip, the Guns were faced with the finest classically presented high pheasants you could ever wish to see. And yes, this was Norfolk. The Stody estate to be precise, home of the MacNicol family.

Ian MacNicol died suddenly two years ago at the age of 62. A legendary figure in farming and country circles, he left many legacies not least the impact he had not only on Stody but in many aspects of rural life in Britain. He enjoyed 25 years of active involvement with the CLA, and was president from 1997 to 1999 during which time he made light of the task of enlightening the New Labour government. He pioneered access. He led by example in so many areas and Stody gave him the platform to do it.

He inherited the estate from his stepfather when he was just 19 while at Cirencester and following a couple of years’ qualifying as a chartered surveyor with John D. Wood in London, he took over the running of the estate in 1963. In 1974 he married Adel. They made a great couple, and it was Adel who was hosting on the day of my visit.

Situated near Melton Constable, Stody comprises 4,000 acres of the Glaven Valley, a small chalk stream that cuts through the Cromer-Holt ridge, surely one of the prettiest and least spoilt areas of rural England. A glacial freak of nature, of wooded hills and arable land, small villages, delightful churches and wild brown trout.

It is tailor made for shooting, but the nature of the sport has changed considerably over the years. Adel explained: “There are 700 acres of mixed woodland. Sadly a lot of the hardwoods were cut down during the war and softwoods were planted for their quick growth. However since the late 1960s, as part of a woodland management scheme, we have planted a lot of mixed woodland with a high ratio of broadleaf trees.

“When Ian took over from the syndicate which previously shot here, he let the two outside beats and kept the central part for the family. Much of the shooting was in woodland rides, using undulations and contours to best effect.”

“The arrival of new gamekeeper Allan Lambert in 1990 prompted a rethink. “Both Ian and Allan concluded that they would help the wild population and release cocks only. Ian could see longer term that the writing was on the wall – there would be pressure on the rearing of game.” Certain areas were shot lightly. The grey partridge population had also collapsed after the good times of the Seventies, just like everywhere else.

Son Charlie, 27, who works in London in corporate finance, is now shoot captain and picks up the story: “Dad persevered with not rearing partridges, which after the first two or three years must have been a bit of a test, and then he had the pressure of two boys who were mustard keen – brother George and myself – so in 2002 we started to rear and release some French partridges. It has undoubtedly been a great success. We present them in very much the traditional Norfolk way, with Guns pegged out 15-20 yards back from a tall hedgerow (preferably a double hedgerow), and the game cover sited 50 yards back the other side. The picker-ups are a long way back, so that we can shoot behind. Allan and his team drive them superbly, and two of the drives in particular, Pynkney and The Wongs, give spectacular shooting all along the line.”

On the subject of hedgerows, Stody has 90 kilometres of them and 100 kilometres of grass margins. Ian was one of the first to sign up ten years ago for entry level stewardship and the estate has recently entered into the higher level scheme.

They have taken part in the GWCT partridge count scheme for several years. Charlie adds: “As of three years ago we now put down around 100 English partridges each year. They are reared under bantams from day-olds, and we put them out in batches of 20-30 in areas well away from the redlegs. “We always see some on shoot days, but we don’t shoot them – other than by mistake. But if this does happen it is not a hanging offence! Very few get shot and we feel that by doing this we can only help build a stock.”

As for pheasants, Charlie explains that they have tried them all, or nearly! “Michigan, Traditional, Scandinavian, Chinese, and for the last two years Bizantes – the Bizantes fly very well, and are reasonable to hold. We used to buy them in as day-olds but as this takes Allan away from vermin control (one of his key strengths) at an important time, we now go for poults.” Most covers are a mixture of maize, with surrounding wild bird strips. The aim is to provide both food and cover. And they always leave stubbles, with mustard, for the partridges.

Adel adds: “Ian was always a keen shooting man, but most of all he saw shooting fitting in as integral to conservation and wildlife. He was passionate about the rural way of life and all it entailed.”

He planted and named woods after each of their four children – Arabella’s was the wood to which I referred earlier, while there are further woods for Charlie, George and Katie. “I will look to continue to run the shoot in the same way as my father” said Charlie. “It is a family shoot in which we have ten main days, a keeper’s day and an estate day. We have a tremendously loyal team of beaters and pickers-up, many of whom have been with us for years, and all are an integral part of both the day and the wider shoot.” The shot game goes to the local butcher.

“As for the sport, we will always look to present the best birds possible, favouring bags of around 200. We don’t start with the partridges until late October, then one more partridge day before pheasants in mid-November. And we try to introduce at least one new drive every year. This year we have trebled the size of a wood planted in 1996 when my father was High Sheriff of Norfolk. We call it Sheriff’s Wood.” A passion for shooting runs in the family. The two brothers are very keen, and both had a traditional introduction. “I carried an empty .410 for a full season” explained Charlie. “I had shot woodpigeons and flighted duck but then at the age of 14 before a shooting day I stood in front of the whole party at breakfast and by heart recited Mark Beaufoy’s If A Sportsman True You’d Be. Then went into the field and stood in front of my father. Never to be forgotten. Friends were subsequently incredibly kind with invitations.”

Adel enjoys the shoot days with her labrador, Lochie, but doesn’t carry a gun. “I stalk in Scotland, but I had three brothers who were also keen on shooting.” Her grandfather was Richmond Watson, founder of West London Shooting School. All in all a rich sporting pedigree which sons Charlie and George have fully embraced and look set to enjoy many happy seasons in the years to come at Stody.

Ian MacNicol and the CLA

Ian MacNicol was the CLA’s representative at the CLA Game Fair and contributed much towards the success it has become. He was CLA President from 1997-1999, and deputy president during the preceding two years. He saw what an important role the fair could play in bringing the countryside and rural businesses to the attention of the decision makers. He also helped advise the government on the removal of lots of red tape and was also a spokesman on foot and mouth.

One of the things he promoted amongst estate owners was a greater degree of access. Adel explains: “He was very keen on voluntary access, something which he pioneered here at Stody, with 13 miles of permissive paths and two designated areas of three acres where dogs can be walked off the lead. The response was good and others followed suit.” In fact with the right to roam debate he secured many practical concessions.

He was awarded OBE for services to agriculture in 2001. “Ian was always fairly forward thinking, and very conscious of a need to farm with a conservation bent. But never forgetting that farming was a business – we have never farmed around the shooting. We have an excellent farm manager in Ross Haddow who as a shooting man understands both sides. Whilst we do all we can to help game, without farming we wouldn’t have a shoot.” Following his presidency of the CLA he was chairman of the Royal Agricultural Society, where he began the revitalisation of the Royal Show and National Agriculture Centre at Stoneleigh. He had a long established interest in west country livestock markets and pioneered electrical marketing to minimise animal movements. He was a former Game Conservancy trustee and founding chairman of the Norfolk branch, a founder chairman of North Norfolk Radio and director of East Port Great Yarmouth. A great supporter of the National Garden Scheme, he was also involved in any number of local charities and organisations.

He somehow managed to fit it all in and also be great fun and find precious time for his family – a one-off, just like Stody itself.

The keeper

Gamekeeper Allan Lambert (59) joined Stody from nearby Foxley in 1990, and quickly developed a good understanding with his new boss. They made the decision to release cocks only in that first year. “It was a slow start as there was so much vermin. We shot 12,000 rabbits which must have accounted for 300 acres of unharvestable crop. We also took 75 foxes in the first three months, and we still account for 130-180 per year. There is a lot of unkeepered ground in the area.

Consequently there were only three days pheasant shooting in that first year. But they persevered. “People try releasing cocks only but it takes time. They get despondent with early results and pack up after three or four years, but it can take seven or eight years before you start to see results.

“Now we are seeing a lot of hens, which are of course all wild. In a really good season we will get a return of 80%, but generally we look for 70%.” Wild stock is therefore very significant on shoot days. They are also good fliers. Many of the young wild are now of Michigan Blue strain, from previous generations of cocks released four or five years ago.

“We are now releasing Bizantes, which we have been very happy with. They are big birds, so the butcher likes them – but they also fly well.” He told me that there are higher drives than Arabella’s, particularly when the wind isn’t so strong. “With the small valleys a very strong wind has a detrimental effect – anything over 15mph is too much.”

They are trying to boost grey partridge stocks and are enjoying some success. “Obviously it depends on the weather, and modern farming is challenging them, but we have a nice sprinkling of greys. We rear 100 under bantams and release them in coveys. I would think that in a normal year we will see 150-200 young English.”

His wife Jackie cooks the shoot meals, while he relies on a regular team of helpers on shoot days. “I have a really good team of beaters, some of them have been with me for nearly 30 years. John Kingsley, a retired estate employee takes charge of the beaters wagon while Simon Rouse drives the Guns’ vintage lorry.

Allan is a man dedicated to his job, having never taken a day off with illness in 30 years. Stody is at his heart and he clearly enjoys working here. “They are a very good family to work for” he adds, and you know he means it.

His passion is wild game. With foxes, crows, magpies, rooks and squirrels, he is kept busy. “But there are many people who don’t realise that unless we controlled vermin, never mind pheasants, there would be no other wildlife to speak of.”

END

It should be noted that Ian MacNicol, a former CLA President and a former GWCT Trustee, died in 2006 and Stody Estate is now in the hands of his family. The Farm Manager, Ross Haddow, has been at Stody since 1992 (two years after Lambert was hired) and has won awards for his work (see here). Frighteningly, ‘around 900 primary school youngsters visit the farm each year to see a variety of farm enterprises’.

It’s also interesting to note that Lambert was not suspended or sacked after his arrest – it’s been reported that he actually retired ‘some months after his arrest’. Fascinating.

The National Gamekeepers’ Organisation has published a statement about Lambert’s conviction, stating that he isn’t, and never was, a member of their outfit. They also claim that Lambert is one of the “very, very few” gamekeepers who break the law. Hmm, according to our reckoning, Lambert is actually the 27th gamekeeper to be convicted of wildlife crime offences in the last 3.5 years (see here) – that seems more than a “very, very few” and remember these are only the ones who’ve been caught! According to the RSPB, since 1990, over 100 gamekeepers have been convicted for crimes against birds of prey.

Full credit to the RSPB Investigations Team, Norfolk Constabulary, Natural England and the Crown Prosecution Service in this case. It’s exceptionally rare that a conviction is gained for actually poisoning raptors – usually it’s just a conviction for possession or storage of a banned pesticide. Now we have to wait to see whether their hard work results in a meaningful sentence…..

Here are some media reports about Lambert’s conviction:

RSPB news here

BBC news here

Guardian here

Dereham Times here

National Gamekeepers’ Organisation here

Telegraph here

Mark Avery’s blog here

Blog by RSPB Investigator Guy Shorrock here

UPDATE 6/11/14: Lambert’s sentencing here

01
Oct
14

Stody Estate gamekeeper convicted of poisoning 10 buzzards & a sparrowhawk

allen-lambert-stody-estateBreaking news from @RSPBBirders….

(Former) Stody Estate gamekeeper, Allen Lambert, has today been found guilty of poisoning 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk, and of having a poisoner’s kit.

Sentencing due in November.

Well done indeed to the RSPB Investigations Team, Norfolk Constabulary and the CPS.

RSPB press release, including link to a video of the crime scene and details of other charges to which Lambert had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, here.

We’ll be blogging some more about this case shortly…[UPDATE: see here]

Meanwhile, here’s a question. Was/is convicted mass poisoner Allen Lambert a member of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation? Let’s ask them. Emails to: info@nationalgamekeepers.org.uk

Here are nine of the buzzards he poisoned:

Lambert 9 bz




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