Friday 16 July 2021

Subject: Wild Justice 69 - new legal action, Shooting Times update


Good morning!  Our main news today is that we are mounting a challenge of DEFRA's regulations that relate to burning vegetation on peatland soils. However, we know that many of you are interested in our tussle with the Shooting Times over an article they published back in February so we'll take this opportunity to tell you about that and a few other things too.  But first, our challenge of the Burning Regulations...
1. Burning Regulations
Back in early June, in Wild Justice newsletter 63, we told you that we had sent a Pre-Action Protocol letter to DEFRA saying that the Burning Regulations which they had brought in were, in our view, unlawful because, essentially, they weren't good enough - they aren't strong enough and they aren't clear enough.  DEFRA responded saying something along the lines of 'Oh yes they are'.  Our legal advice is that their defence is weak and flawed so we have taken the next stage in the three-step process of judicial review - we issued detailed papers in the High Court on Tuesday. These lengthy papers contain a financial statement, a witness statement about the issue by Wild Justice and the top-level legal argument  which is a called a Statement of Facts and Grounds by our lawyers. 
DEFRA will have to respond to these arguments in detail - unless they'd like to give in now - and then a judge will or won't give us permission for judicial review of the Burning Regulations. We almost certainly won't hear whether or not we have permission until the autumn. If we get permission we move on to even more detailed legal arguments and a hearing before a judge at a later date who will pronounce on whether we are right, or DEFRA is right (and sometimes it is a bit of both - see our challenge of NRW's general licences - click here).
You can read our press release on the matter - click here. The Wild Justice quote in that release is 'There's a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis, and this type of burning adds to both. Instead of acting decisively, DEFRA is fiddling while the uplands burn.'.  We'd say that is undoubtedly true, DEFRA probably wouldn't agree, but DEFRA's measures have been very widely criticised by other environmental and conservation groups, by many peers in the House of Lords and by the Committee on Climate Change in its very recent report to Parliament, so it's a widely held view. Our legal challenge seeks to establish that not only is DEFRA dragging its feet on this matter but it is doing so in a way that is unlawful because of existing legal commitments under environmental law.  It's a complex case, but one which we believe is well worth taking - win or lose. Our lawyers at Leigh Day say that the Regulations 'create a façade of effectiveness preventing real progress from being made' - that's a good way of putting it too! 
Obviously these challenges cost money BUT, no, we aren't asking you to contribute to this challenge at this stage. Thanks to the generosity of Wild Justice supporters we have built up a fighting fund and so we have the first stage (the PAP letter) and the second stage (which will end with a decision on permission over proceeding to a court hearing) covered.  If we get permission to go to court then we will ask you for help in funding that last, third stage.
Talking of money, very briefly...
2. We have filed our company accounts for 1 November 2019 - 31 October 2020 - you can see them here on our blog or on the Companies House website (but they are quite dull).
3. The Perfect 10 or the Imperfect 8 - an update. 
In late May we told you (in newsletter 62 and this blog post) about an article, published in Shooting Times, which described a man going out to try to shoot the 'Perfect' 10 species in a day, which we had reported to DEFRA as a potential breach of the terms of the general licences. We updated you recently (newsletter 67 and three blog posts, The Shooting Times and the general licencesA letter to the Shooting Times and What that Shooting Times article might have said) about the fact that when the Essex Police sought to interview the writer of the article he changed his story (presumably to the truth) and admitted that the article was, in large parts, false. We wrote to the Shooting Times pointing out that they had not only published an article that was not true, but had it been true then it was describing behaviour that might be illegal and that they should make amends for that. There is a small correction printed in Shooting Times this week and you can see what we think of it in another blog post published today - click here.
That's more or less it for now.  There will be another newsletter very soon telling you about our plans for Hen Harrier Day and what the three of us got up to, with some friends, on some grouse moors and other moors when we all met up earlier this week.
If you like what we are doing, please consider making a donation through PayPal, bank transfer or a cheque in the post - see details here. All our work is funded solely by donations.
Back soon!
Wild Justice (Directors: Mark Avery, Chris Packham and Ruth Tingay).
Image of heather burning - thanks to Sarah Hanson.

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