DAERA concedes unlawfulness of Northern Ireland general licences – another Wild Justice win.

Wild Justice, represented by Leigh Day acting through their agent Phoenix Law, has secured a landmark victory in a legal challenge to Northern Ireland’s general licences for the killing of wild birds.

The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) yesterday conceded Wild Justice’s claim that the decision to issue three general licences on 10 September 2021 that permit the killing of birds in the province is unlawful.

DAERA has now provided written assurance that its flawed general licences will be replaced by interim licences and that a full consultation will be launched in due course.

In our pre-action letter, Wild Justice set out that the 2021 General Licences were unlawful and breached the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 for these reasons:

  • DAERA had not satisfied itself that there was no other satisfactory solution in relation to the killing being authorised for the respective purposes for which the 2021 General licences were issued.
  • DAERA did not comply with Section 18(6) of the 1985 Order in that it failed to specify the circumstances and conditions subject to which birds may be killed or the “Area of Use” for the 2021 General Licences.
  • There was no evidence to justify the inclusion of certain species in the 2021 General Licences.
  • DAERA failed to seek out the relevant information required to make a decision to grant the 2021 General Licences at all.
  • DAERA failed to complete any consultation prior to issuing the 2021 General Licences.

In response to this further Wild Justice legal victory, which reforms general licences and reduces the scale of casual licensing of casual killing of wild birds:

Wild Justice said:

“The DAERA General Licences we challenged were not fit for purpose and were unlawful to boot. DAERA seemed to think that Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons threatened conservation interests in Northern Ireland – a totally bizarre idea. And yet it took a tiny organisation, supported by thousands of people, to raise the money and to hire brilliant lawyers to bring these flawed licences down. We look forward to seeing lawful replacement licences in the very near future. DAERA must do better and Wild Justice remains ready, willing and able to take further legal challenges on behalf of wildlife in the UK.”

Leigh Day Associate Tom Short said:

Our client welcomes DAERA’s belated concession that its 2021 general licences are not fit for purpose. DAERA had blatantly, as in previous years, failed to follow the process it is required to, and had issued the licences absent any evidence to support them. That is not how a licensing system permitting the killing of otherwise protected wild birds should operate, and it is astonishing that DAERA has failed to engage with the problem since it was first raised by Wild Justice in May 2019. Our client welcomes DAERA’s commitment to now reform its licensing and move to full consultation on the issue.”

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