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BASC granted judicial review against Defra

BASC takes Defra to the High Court to allow a judicial review into the withdrawal of GL43, which proved disastrous for shoots last year.

BASC has been granted permission by the High Court to bring a judicial review of Defra’s decision to withdraw general licence 43 (GL43). GL43 governed the release of gamebirds within 500m of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in England.

BASC began the High Court challenge using its fighting fund, which was launched in 2020 to promote and protect sustainable shooting and conservation in the UK. The 2022-23 version of GL43 expired at the end of May 2023, initially without a replacement. 

Defra’s failure to renew GL43 left the shooting sector into a state of confusion and uncertainty because without it release in SPAs and other areas was prohibited. Shoots faced the threat of closure and gamekeepers were left in a position where they did not know if they would lose their jobs and homes. For some, this worst-case scenario was realised.

BASC chief executive Ian Bell said: “The fact that a judge sitting in the High Court believes that we have a case is positive news for our continuing talks with Defra to secure a workable system for releasing birds under general licence. Ministers should be in no doubt that we will pursue this case, as required, to achieve that end.

“The way in which this licence was withdrawn with scant notice placed businesses at risk and threatened jobs across large areas of England,” he added. 

“By not consulting with the shooting organisations and issuing legally dubious guidance on culling the birds in the close season, Defra threw shooting into turmoil at a critical time in the rural year. That must never happen again.” 

Caroline Bedell, executive director of conservation at BASC, told ST: “Defra’s decision to carve out Special Protection Areas from the GL43 framework last summer was communicated to the sector at the eleventh hour — without prior consultation or engagement and at a critical point in the shooting calendar when preparations for the season were well advanced.

“Government agencies must start to treat the shooting sector fairly and on a level playing field with other stakeholders, considering the significant environmental, economic and social benefits the sector has to offer.”