Introductory Blog….

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Let me start with an introduction, I am a Police Superintendent and I have been a police officer now for approaching 18 years. In that time have had the privilege of working with some of the finest people you will ever meet, let it be known that I work with everyday heroes and I am immensely proud to be a cop. I live in a rural village, and while writing this blog can see and hear a Red Kite out of the window, importantly may their continued resurgence be everlasting.

I have recently been appointed as the new National Chair of the Raptor Persecution Priority Delivery Group. The Raptor PPDG is one of six such Priority Delivery Groups nationally, and I am extremely proud to have been asked to lead this important work.

Many people reading this blog, my first as National Chair, will know this already but the work of the PPDG focuses in the main on six raptor species, those being

·       Golden Eagle

·       Goshawk

·       Hen Harrier

·       Peregrine

·       Red Kite

·       White-tailed Eagle

I think it is fair to say that of the six species above, the biggest controversy I have seen surrounds the Hen Harrier. The disappearance of so many Hen Harriers across England and Wales in suspicious circumstances will be an absolute priority for all members of the PPDG to tackle head-on. One of the first briefings I will receive is on the work contained within the National Hen Harrier Action Plan, one of the first actions I hope to secure is PPDG member’s agreement on joint press statements following reports of both confirmed persecution incidents and disappearances. The current silence from many PPDG members leaves a void, which is unhelpfully filled by accusations of conspiracy and collusion, the current status quo cannot continue.

In my first couple of weeks as Chair I have taken the time to meet with many people, including my predecessor in the role, Defra Senior Police Advisors and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. These meetings were to ensure I could get as much detail as possible before engaging with the wider raptor community.  A number of people have reached out via Twitter too (@SuptNickLyall) and I look forward to speaking to those individuals over the coming days and weeks, as I look to redefine the work of the PPDG. I had a really helpful conversation with Ruth Tingay this week, thank Ruth!

I have had a series of meetings this week too, including with the RSPB and Moorland Association. At the RSBP I got to spend time with the Investigation Team, who talked me through a number of critical issues within the persecution enforcement area. This meeting gave me plenty of food for thought, and reinforced my view that the PPDG must have an enforcement focused sub-group moving forwards and I have written to a couple of key people asking them to consider chairing this. This sub-group will focus on those people known or suspected of killing birds of prey and will include partners like the Police, RSPB and CPS and report into the PPDG.

Today’s meeting was hosted by the Moorland Association, joining me on this visit was a Senior Policy Advisor for Defra and the Head of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. The Chairman and Director took the time to explain to me the work they complete to support a reduction in persecution, including conservation activity. The Moorland Association are committed to working with me as PPDG Chair to eradicate unlawful activity and to release joint statements, in an attempt to breakdown the `them and us` that currently exists, and highlight the good work taking place that currently goes unreported. We had a number of focused discussions during the day and I left reassured that we could start to build a strong partnership to tackle those involved in persecutions offences, including but not exclusively rogue gamekeepers, who tarnish the name of those who add so much to rural life.

The PPDG will become much more balanced in its membership, raptor conservation groups will have a stronger voice, and the group will focus on delivering activity against the three clear strands of Prevention, Intelligence and Enforcement which will all be governed by a newly created Action Delivery Plan.  Community engagement activity will be key if we are to make a difference and every member of the PPDG has a key role to play in delivering real, sustainable change.  I have written to the current PPDG members with a revised Terms of Reference just this past weekend and am already planning a National Raptor Persecution Workshop towards the end of November. Only by everyone working together will we achieve success.

Let me close this first blog by saying this, I will give my all to ensuring the work of the Raptor Persecution PDG becomes focused on genuine and meaningful partnership and community activity to combat raptor persecution across England and Wales. I know this isn’t going to be an easy task, I absolutely know the challenge ahead, and cant wait to start delivering change.

I will keep you all updated through this blog, in the interest of openness and absolute transparency and while you might not agree with what I say, I hope you welcome and value this insight.

I look forward to your interaction and support….

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14 thoughts on “Introductory Blog….

  1. Nick,
    Vongrdtolationdbon your new position, you say you ate awsrebof the challenge you have taken on, I sincerely hope do and wish you all the best, to me, and let me state I am simply a very concerned member of the public with grave concerns about the state of many of our magnificent raptors , to me, if you endure that the focus is on the eradication of criminal persecution and that alone, you will have made a great improvement. Of course there are politics involved but they must not stand in the way of your main objective, the elimination of persecution, this is after all, about the birds is it not? Good luck going forward, I look forward myself to seeing if your plans make an impact ,
    Yours sincerely
    Phil Lanczak

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  2. You mention rogue gamekeepers but what about landowners ?. What about Natural England ?. These are complicit in the situation on moorlands!!

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  3. Your enthusiasm and excitement for your new role comes through in your blog . Long may it last as there are bound to be good times and bad. These beautiful birds need help unfortunately from our Police, especially as you say the Hen Harriér. Wish you every success and look forward to your blogs.

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  4. Dear Mr Lyall
    Thank you for your open blog. I look forward to seeing the breaking of the silence of the Moorland Association, the National Gamekeepers Organisation and all of the other shooting interests the next time a bird of prey is shot, poisoned, trapped or disappears in suspicious circumstances, and their unequivocal condemnation of the perpetrators.

    I also look forward to their unequivocal support for the RSPB investigations team the next time it uncovers the evidence of persecution, however obtained, rather than their sneering self-congratulation the next time the CPS decide to exclude evidence because they don’t like the way it was obtained. It would be much better, of course, if the MA made membership contingent on allowing independent monitoring of nest sites, there are hundreds of us, outside of the RSPB, who would be happy to do so. Adopting fault through vicarious liability for member estates, with consequent expulsions and publicity, rather than hiding behind the “rogue gamekeeper” smokescreen, would persuade many of us that they are actually serious about dealing with the issue. Then we could all appreciate the hard work they do for conservation – although I would still have a problem with the slaughter of unprotected mammals and birds that is rife on their estates.

    When I see those things happening I will begin to believe that change is possible. That is, I suspect, going to be the hardest part of your task. Good luck!

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  5. Congratulations on your appointment and Good Luck!
    Fine positive words from you that, hopefully, will be backed up by action from the The Raptor PPDG.

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  6. Welcome to your new role, fine words and good ideas here. But to echo others voices, there is no doubt that rogue activity is not the problem, this is pervasive (and in some cases organised) and truly embedded as ‘normal’ practice in this sporting activity. Not to mention postovely brazen in the case of the recent red kite shooting. Years of dialogue with MA have got nowhere, it’s time to get the estates to stop hiding behind them. Good luck and a fair wind, the measure of success will be seeing raptors such as hen harrier recover properly (and naturally) and other raptors spreading into our uplands…

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  7. I have been involved with the conservation and protection of raptors for over 5 decades and throughout this period I have witnessed first hand the sustained killing of these species, including the destruction of nests, along with eggs and chicks contained in nests on red grouse moorland here in the N.W of England.

    Although since 1974 my main focus has been on moorland in Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, I have also been closely involved with protecting peregrine nests in the Lake District National Park, and since 2002 have had a close licensed relationship with Poland’s White-tailed eagle.

    I continue to be amazed at the attitude of denial demonstrated by shooting groups like the Moorland Association and the National Gamekeepers Organisation when it comes to persecution of the hen harrier and peregrine. Despite what these two groups may say or claim to the contrary which flies in the face of reality, the facts tell a different story completely.

    There is no denying what has been taking place on grouse moors in our country throughout many many decades, and has now brought the hen harrier close to extinction in England. This position is also reflected by the way the peregrine falcon has also been treated by many moorland gamekeepers, reducing their number on all northern England grouse moors to critical levels.

    Lancashire’s Forest of Bowland, once upon a time regarded as the main English stronghold for the hen harrier, where in 1974 39 breeding females were recorded distributed across each of Bowlands shooting estates; this number has been reduced to just 3 successful nests restricted to a single estate owned by United Utilities. The peregrine has done far worse in Bowland having been reduced from an average of between 16-18 breeding pairs in 2009 to a single successful pair this year. It is no coincidence this singe pair is also located on moorland owned by United Utilities. Neither is it a coincidence that the peregrine and hen harrier are completely absent from all the additional shooting estates in the Forest of Bowland, and because of ongoing persecution of raptors in this region today the situation is unlikely to chance any time soon.

    This trend was graphically illustrated by the slaughter in April 2016 of the last breeding pair of peregrines established on a private estate in the Forest of Bowland. Unbelievably when the case came to court the presiding Judge ruled the video evidence which captured the killing of these falcons at their nest was inadmissible; it seems when the camera had been installed over looking the nest without the correct authorisation and without the land owners approval, the Judges ruled the camera had been installed illegally.

    Raptors like the hen harrier and peregrine have a common link with the majority of English grouse moors, these species are conspicuous within these areas by their complete absence from such habitats.

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      1. “of course not” I am not stupid enough to equate the killing of a human (murder) with the killing of wildlife but, surely, the burden of proof in criminal cases is the same? If the provision of evidence is acceptable for one crime, surely that sets a precedent for all crime?

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  8. Good luck Nick!
    This is a highly emotive problem. Strong leadership is what is needed along with new approaches. Lots has been tried already and still the birds disappear. Having followed it for years, my tips would be to try something new, and lock organisations into real commitment rather than nice words if you can. It has to change. I hope you can be a leader of that change. 😁

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  9. You seem to be sincere about tackling this problem. However, there is a major obstacle which needs to be acknowledged. The scale of raptor persecution, the way raptors have been virtually eliminated from a large proportion of grouse moors, and the speed with which satellite tagged raptors are killed after being tagged – clearly indicates this is much more than the odd rogue gamekeeper i.e. that it is very widespread across many shooting estates.

    To be able to eliminate raptors with such efficiency and to get close enough to newly tagged raptors to be able to shoot them, indicates that a huge amount of time and energy is being spent on this activity. The maximum range of a shotgun is 50m or less. Any experienced birder knows that it’s very rare and notable for a raptor to come within less than 50m from you, and most stay far much further away. Therefore to be able to kill these raptors with such efficiency means many people spending a lot of time in the field towards this one aim. The whole idea that this is done by the odd rogue gamekeeper who is lucky when a tagged Hen Harrier flies right past them, is absurd in the extreme. The fact is, if gamekeepers or other estate employees are spending this amount of time and effort persecuting raptors, then their employers and those overseeing them must be aware what is going on. In other words there is a considerable amount of people in the shooting industry, their representatives etc, who know very well what is going on.

    This is the difficulty for conservationists, birders, ecologists and naturalists. They hear the representatives of the shooting industry constantly trying to play down the scale of raptor persecution, and absurdly claim it is the odd rogue gamekeeper. Remember, the specific expertise of these people is in managing predators on shoots, which are seen as a problem to game birds. So they of all people know how much effort it takes to create this effect. This is what makes it very difficult for conservationists to trust or work with people, who they know are being dishonest with them, and are trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Modern methods like satellite tagging, population modelling and modern small video cameras mean that the ecologically literate know what is going on, even if they have not observed the persecution themselves. It appears to be that those behind raptor persecution think it’s out of sight out of mind, and that they can still get away with pretending that if raptor persecution is not observed, then it’s not happening. They are insulting the intelligence of those who’s expertise is natural history, bird behaviour and ecology.

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