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Victory for gamekeeper in High Court fight to manage birds of prey

The Countryside Alliance welcomes the judgement of the High Court to overturn Natural England's decision not to grant a licence to control buzzards to a Northumberland gamekeeper, and congratulates the National Gamekeepers' Organisation for bringing this important issue to the court's notice.

The Judicial Review at the High Court today (13 November) quashed a decision not to grant a licence to Ricky McMorn to control buzzards that were predating his pheasants in the summer of 2014. The man had unsuccessfully applied for four consecutive years to be allowed to cull the raptors.

Giving his judgement today Mr Justice Ousley said Natural England and Defra had exceeded their powers and must in future make decisions fairly and on the facts.

Natural England had unlawfully adopted a policy that made it more difficult to get a licence to shoot raptors that were preying on gamebirds than it was for other birds covered by the same law, he concluded.

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance said: "The NGO's support for Mr McMorn has been instrumental in bringing this double standard to light.

"There is no justification for the illegal killing of birds of prey or any other species, but a series of licences have been in place since 1981 which allow for the legal control of species such as buzzards and Natural England should deal with applications for licences under these derogations entirely even-handedly.

"There are now more than 300,000 buzzards in the UK. Natural England had acknowledged that the birds of prey were causing serious damage and that Mr McMorn had exhausted all other methods of protecting them however they still refused to grant him a licence. Natural England should make licensing decisions based on the law and scientific evidence and not bow to external criticisms. This does not change the law - buzzards are still protected - but this ruling gives clarity on how licences should be granted."

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