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BASC takes GL43 battle right to the High Court

Lawyers representing the shooting organisation have filed a claim for a judicial review of Defra’s decision over the release of gamebirds, reports Felix Petit


The general licence debacle came at a time when shoots had already ordered poults

Lawyers acting on behalf of BASC filed a claim on 30 August at the High Court for a judicial review of Defra’s decision to fundamentally change the licensing regime for the release of gamebirds in certain areas of England.

BASC previously branded the move by Defra to restrict the release of pheasants and partridges within 500m of Special Protected Areas as “chaotic” and said its actions had threatened jobs and business at a critical point in the rural calendar. The changes were brought in at the last minute without any prior notice or consultation earlier this year.

Hundreds of shoots were threatened with closure following the 11th-hour licence withdrawal. The licences that some shoots such as the Royal Artillery Shoot did eventually receive were deemed “valueless” by Devizes MP Danny Kruger, as they came with “unworkable conditions” attached.

The legal challenge is being financially supported by BASC’s ‘fighting fund’.

Caroline Bedell, BASC’s executive director of conservation, said: “Defra decision-makers rode roughshod over the rural community by ignoring and blindsiding those who know the countryside best by significantly changing the scope of general licence 43 [GL43] without any notice or consultation. Our absolute priority is still to seek the immediate reinstatement of a workable GL43 system. But we also want the High Court to put on record that Defra’s decision was unlawful in so far that it was reached unfairly and without due consultation of the shooting community.”

There is evidence to suggest that the UK Government could have released information about the likely licence withdrawal as early as December 2022 – in time to affect business decisions and the purchase of young gamebirds.

Ms Bedell continued: “We hope that one of the positive outcomes of this process will be that Defra’s processes are changed and that proper engagement with the rural community takes place before any other significant changes are introduced in the future.”

The National Gamekeepers Organisation and the Game Farmers’ Association have also joined the process as interested parties.

This story first appeared in Shooting Times, Britain’s oldest and best-selling shooting magazine. Published every Wednesday, the 141-year-old title has long been at the coalface of the countryside, breaking the stories that matter to you. Subscribe here.