More on our latest legal challenge

Because the magazine/website Sporting Gun was unique among shooting magazines in actually asking us about what we were doing when Natural England revoked the General Licences GL04, GL05 and GL06, and because they asked some sensible questions and printed our answers faithfully, we have a bit of a soft spot for them. That doesn’t mean that we agree with them and it certainly doesn’t mean they agree with us, but they have certainly made an effort to be fair and we appreciate that.

So we contacted them over the weekend to give them advance notice of our announcement of our second legal challenge. And that’s why they have this exclusive Q&A with us on their Facebook page and that’s why presumably the Q&A will eventually appear on their own website and perhaps in their magazine – and it’s why the likes of Shooting Times do not have this information.

The comments on this Q&A from people who look as though they are mostly shooters show how difficult it is to reach out to this community. But there you go.

We also contacted Farmers Weekly over the weekend because farmers are the other main group affected by changes to, and challenges to, the general licences. They’ve asked us some questions, they’ve ask for our comments, and they have taken them on board. They’ve treated us straight too. So you will soon see some reporting of our new legal challenge in Farmers Weekly too.

We also contacted a national newspaper on this subject but they haven’t covered our legal challenge yet (as far as we’ve noticed). This is hardly surprising as, in the big scheme of things, this is rather complicated stuff and small beer in national news terms. But we tried. And guess what, the newspaper wasn’t the Daily Telegraph.

In our first, and successful, legal challenge we did not name the public body (Natural England) whose decision we were challenging, nor the subject on which the challenge was based (General Licences GL04, GL05 and GL06) until over a month after launching it. We gave Natural England the time and space, unpressured, to consider their position. We believe that Natural England handled the matter badly and we will, when we get round to it, be writing to them and to the Efra Committee on that subject.

You might have thought that a public body which had conceded a legal challenge to an entity might want to talk to that entity to check whether its new plans were going to be challenged again but we haven’t heard from Natural England. So, we didn’t feel any compunction about publicising this new legal challenge and publishing our Pre-action Protocol letter yesterday. We believe that the licences that Natural England published have a similar legal flaw in them as did the previous general licences. If Natural England thinks not, then we are prepared to take this case through the courts to have the legal arguments decided by a judge. If Natural England concedes again then the world will wonder what on earth they were doing issuing more legally flawed licences. We’ll have to see what happens.

We’ll also have to see what happens with Defra’s much-delayed plans to issue new licences. We understand they had 4000+ responses to their rushed consultation but they will now also have had to scrutinise and think about Wild Justice’s new legal challenge. We are interested to learn their plans. When is the promised consultation going to happen? And when will a Defra minister appear in front of the Efra Committee? We keep hearing from others that Defra’s annoucement is ‘imminent’ – it’s been imminent for a while now.

Last, but not least, many thanks to our friends at Birdwatch and Birdguides for promptly putting our news out to birders yesterday. Much appreciated!