Justice for Ravens! #Justice4Ravens

by Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group

Justice for Ravens! #Justice4Ravens

by Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group
Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group
The Scottish Raptor Study Group monitors birds of prey (& ravens) across Scotland for conservation purposes. Please visit our website: www.scottishraptorstudygroup.org
Funded
on 05th June 2018
£26,765
pledged by 1087 people
Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group
The Scottish Raptor Study Group monitors birds of prey (& ravens) across Scotland for conservation purposes. Please visit our website: www.scottishraptorstudygroup.org

Latest: Aug. 21, 2018

Application for judicial review withdrawn, for now

Yesterday we instructed our legal team to withdraw our current application for judicial review of the Strathbraan raven cull licence.

The reasons for this are as follows:

Our initial objectives for a...

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In April 2018, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) issued a licence permitting gamekeepers to kill young ravens across a large area called Strathbraan, in Highland Perthshire. Much of Strathbraan is managed for grouse shooting and the area has been identified as a wildlife crime hotspot. Further details about this controversial licensing decision can be found here

We are mounting a legal challenge against SNH's decision to authorise the killing of ravens 'just to see what happens' - but we need your help. Please contribute what you can and share on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #Justice4Ravens to help spread the word.

This licence forms part of a planned five year 'experiment' to kill ravens in this area 'just to see what happens' to wading bird populations. However, peer-reviewed scientific studies suggest ravens are not responsible for wader population declines and we believe that this raven cull is actually to protect red grouse, which will later be shot for fun.

Gamekeepers have long campaigned to be allowed to kill ravens because they are perceived as a threat to grouse stocks, despite the charismatic raven only recently making a comeback from historical persecution.

We believe this licensing decision is unlawful because lethal control of a protected species like the raven should be a last resort and the decision should be based on sound scientific evidence, not on the basis of 'just to see what happens'. We also believe SNH should have officially consulted with a range of stakeholders before making this decision, to allow informed scrutiny of the licence application. Instead, SNH undertook the licensing process in secret, excluding the Scottish Raptor Study Group who have monitored ravens in this region for 30+ years.

Due to these concerns, and because SNH has indicated that a similar approach may be adopted for other species (probably buzzards), we intend to launch a legal challenge in the form of a judicial review of SNH's decision to issue this licence.

We have a fantastic team of highly-experienced legal experts in place to take forward our case (including a formidable QC who has kindly offered to work at reduced rates), but in order to proceed we need funding, and we're asking for your help. Initially we need to raise £10k to get to the first stage of judicial review - this is where a judge decides if we have a strong enough case to proceed to a full hearing.

If the judge deems our case is strong enough, we can then proceed to stage 2 (the full hearing) but we will then require further funding (amount TBA) to cover subsequent costs.

At the moment, we're raising funds to reach our first target (£10k). We cannot proceed until this funding is in place. We won't launch the second crowdfunding appeal until we know we have been successful at stage one.

Obviously, we cannot guarantee that our case will be successful, and that's the risk we all take when we make donations to support legal action like this, but we feel strongly that this is a risk worth taking, not only for the ravens but to prevent SNH making similar unjustified decisions to permit the killing of protected raptors 'just to see what happens'.

We hope you will help support us in getting #Justice4Ravens

THANK YOU!

[Raven photo by Dieter Schaeffer]

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Update 4

Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group

Aug. 21, 2018

Application for judicial review withdrawn, for now

Yesterday we instructed our legal team to withdraw our current application for judicial review of the Strathbraan raven cull licence.

The reasons for this are as follows:

Our initial objectives for applying for judicial review were to (a) establish that the process and scientific justification for the SNH raven cull licence (i.e. 'just to see what happens') was flawed and should not be permitted to be used as the basis for this or for any future cull licences for ravens or other protected species; and (b) to have the 2018 raven cull licence stopped.

We have succeeded in achieving both objectives. 

At the end of July, SNH published a review conducted by its own Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) which utterly condemned the scientific justificiation and design of the 'study', calling it "completely inadequate", "seriously flawed" and "will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence".

As a result of this damning review, SNH also announced that the licence holder (Strathbraan Community Collaboration for Waders, SCCW) had agreed to 'voluntarily suspend' the raven cull from the end of July until the licence expires on 31 December 2018, having killed 39 of its licensed quota of 69 ravens. On a superficial level this appeared, initially, to be a satisfactory response, but we had concerns that the 'voluntary suspension' was not legally binding and so the SCCW could continue to kill ravens at any time for the remaining duration of the licence.

However, we are now satisfied that the SCCW has made an undertaking to voluntarily suspend the cull, which in effect means the licence will not be used again before it expires on 31 December 2018. According to our lawyers, the word 'undertaking' has far more legal significance than the word 'agreed', which means if the SCCW does decide to continue killing ravens under the terms of the current (flawed) licence, even though it has undertaken not to, this would open an opportunity for us to launch a further legal challenge, this time against the SCCW rather than against SNH.

As we have successfully achieved both our objectives, our application for judicial review becomes just an academic exercise with no tangible benefits, as the SAC has already declared the scientific justification as being "completely inadequate" and SNH will not be issuing any further licences without substantial review, and an undertaking has been made by SCCW not to kill any more ravens for the duration of the licence. If we were to proceed with our application for judicial review on this academic basis alone, there is a risk the judge would consider our case unfavourably and dismiss it, leaving us exposed to a demand for legal costs from SNH.

We feel we have a responsibility to use our crowdfunded donations wisely and pursuing an academic exercise just to prove a point would not be a prudent use of these funds, nor a good use of court time. On balance, we would have more to lose than gain. Instead, we intend to hold the remaining funds as a war chest so that if/when SNH decides to issue a further licence permitting the killing of ravens in Strathbraan, we will be in a strong position to react quickly and launch another legal challenge if it is deemed necessary. Our funds are currently being professionally audited and we have a significant amount remaining, which will be held by our lawyers in a ring-fenced account.

Our fight to get #Justice4Ravens is not over. SNH indicated that the 2018 raven cull licence was part of a proposed five-year 'study' at Strathbraan and although SNH has admitted it has to review and amend its "seriously flawed" study design, we are well aware that future licences are quite likely, if not in time for 2019 then probably for 2020. We consider the withdrawal of our application for judicial review as a temporary measure and will not hesitate to apply for a further judicial review if SNH's incompetence continues.

We'd like to record our sincere thanks to our legal team, Sindi Mules (Balfour & Manson) and Aidan O'Neill QC (Matrix Chambers) for their hard work and commitment to our case. They have been fantastic to work with and we look forward to seeking their advice again as SNH's future raven cull plans become clearer.

We'd also like to thank you, our donors, whose generous support allowed us to launch this legal challenge. It's a cliche but our success in this case would not have been possible without your trust and support (and of course, your donations!). Thank you all.

We will continue to keep you informed of any new developments.

Ruth Tingay & Logan Steele, on behalf of Scottish Raptor Study Group

Update 3

Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group

Aug. 7, 2018

Significant victory as raven cull licence is suspended

Last week SNH was forced to admit it's 2018 Strathbraan raven cull licence was "completely inadequate", "seriously flawed", and "will fail to provide any meaningful scientific evidence", following a damning review by its own Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC).

You can read the SAC report here.

The SAC's assessment came as no surprise to those of us who have stated all along that the raven cull had no scientific justification whatsoever. SNH should have sought the SAC's advice long before the licence was ever granted instead of waiting until the cull had already begun.

As a result of the SAC's findings, the licence has been 'voluntarily suspended' and SNH is working to make changes before any further licences are granted. This is a significant victory for us all, as the raven cull has been stopped, albeit temporarily. However, the fact that SNH has not revoked the licence, despite such severe criticism of its unscientific basis, is a matter of concern.

The Scottish Raptor Study Group will be meeting with its legal team tomorrow (Weds 8th August) to discuss how this news affects our application for judicial review. We have several options on the table and these need careful consideration and guidance from our legal experts.

We'll report back soon.

Thanks everyone for helping us get this far. It's not over yet!

Ruth Tingay & Logan Steele (SRSG)


Update 2

Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group

July 5, 2018

Funding target smashed!

Message from Logan Steele & Ruth Tingay (SRSG):

Our crowdfunder closed this morning and smashed our stretch target of £25k!

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported this campaign and made it such a success!

Our legal team has been working hard behind the scenes building our case and we're delighted to announce that yesterday a petition/application for judicial review was lodged at the Court of Session.

This is stage one of proceedings and we now await the judge's decision on whether we have a strong enough case to proceed to a full hearing (stage two).

We'll keep you posted.

Thank you all again, this legal challenge would not have been possible without your support.

Update 1

Ruth Tingay, on behalf of the Scottish Raptor Study Group

June 5, 2018

£10k target smashed on Day 1!

A quick message from Logan Steele of the SRSG:

Many thanks to EVERYONE who has helped us to achieve our first £10k target on Day One of the campaign! 

You have all been fantastic.

Tomorrow we appoint the QC.

Please keep sharing as we now try to reach our stretch target of £25k.

We will keep you posted as things progress.

Best, Logan

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