Thought I'd just update you with the latest happenings regarding the petition.
Early this morning, I heard from James Diamond, the Director of Operations at Natural England.
I'd requested some further details regarding some specific data for birds killed under licence, notably figures for House Sparrows and Coots, both of which appeared very prominently in the Freedom of Information results. This was one of the questions I raised during the discussions I had with Mr Diamond about three weeks ago.
Well, as you will know, there has been a whole lot of hullabaloo surrounding Natural England's revoking of the general licences recently; you will have seen the news of this in the media, with Chris Packham taking the brunt of criticism after Wild Justice's legal challenge provoked a surprise response from the agency, which hastily revoked three licences, covering 16 species, causing a backlash from those who exterminate birds under these general licences - farmers, 'pest' controllers etc.
So, Mr Diamond wrote to me this morning explaining that his staff are 'fully occupied', including working late nights and weekends, as they try to sort out the reworked general licences. Quite a task I'm thinking....
We will get the answers to our questions in due course - but not just yet.
As I've said before, I find James Diamond both helpful and respectful, and I appreciate, given the pressure he must be under, that he is keeping in touch with me over our petition.
But what about revoking the other licences?
But I have suggested to him today that the current controversy surrounding the three general licences might have provided a good opportunity to revoke all the other licences too - including those issued to kill songbirds and the other species covered by our petition. The reason the general licences are being hastily reviewed is because they were challenged on their legality.
And that got me wondering about the legality of these other licences.
Those applicants who successfully apply for a licence to kill birds are obliged to report the results of their licence to Natural England within a specified time frame. But it seems they don't always fulfill their obligations.
Mr Diamond told me during our discussions that the agency do rely on the 'good practice' of applicants to report the final figures for birds killed, including those killed under 'class' and 'individual' licences. "We expect returns and we continue to chase them," he told me, "but there is no financial penalty for those who fail to comply."
Might this suggest that there is potential to challenge the compliance and/or legality of these licences?
I'm no lawyer but any thoughts on this matter, from those more qualified than I, would be welcome.
While this may all be beyond the scope of our petition, it might be noteworthy when Natural England review the remaining licences later this year (as they have said they will), including those that cover the 65+ species under the umbrella of our petition.
314,000 Signatures and Counting...!
Meanwhile, I'm delighted to say we are currently at 314,000 signatures, with more people signing all the time. The more support we have, the more chance we have of continuing to make change. So please keep sharing!
Thanks and best wishes,
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