In the hot seat…..

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Let me start this latest blog by offering a heartfelt thank you to everyone that has offered me their support since I took on the role as National Chair of the RPPDG in September last year. Having been in post for around six months, I chaired my first RPPDG meeting just a couple of weeks ago.

Being trusted by the people of England & Wales to chair this group is a great honour for me, and a role that I will fulfil to the very best of my abilities. I will ensure that I give the role my all, with the aim of making raptor persecution a thing of the past, after all 2019 will be the `Year of the Raptor`.

RPPDG

The RPPDG was formed in 2009 and contrary to many social media reports is not a DEFRA led initiative. The RPPDG is one of a number of similar PDG meetings that are governed and held to account by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) lead for Wildlife Crime, currently DCC Craig Naylor of Lincolnshire Police, through the UK Tasking and Coordinating Group Meeting.

As I previously spoke about, I attended my first TCG after just a few weeks in post and updated the previous TCG chair on my plans to move the RPPDG forwards with rigour, accountability and at considerable pace. The RPPDG is ten years old this year and I fully intend to make the most successful one yet.

RPPDG Meeting 16th January 2019

Again much has been written about this meeting in both the national and social media space, and mostly focused on some empty seats at the table, I intend however to focus this update on the extremely positive steps we took forward as a group during this meeting.

I have repeatedly given my absolute commitment to making the work of the group open and transparent and that through this blog I would update you all, so here is an overview of my first meeting in the `hot seat`.

The group was joined by a number of guests, all of whom added real value to the day, and are now considering how they can support us moving forwards including potentially joining the RPPDG as core-members. I will introduce these people in future blogs once they have decided on how and if they can add meaningful value, which I am sure they all will.

The group is now well on the way to having an agreed Terms of Reference, a really important document that will provide focus, direction and absolute clarity of purpose for everyone involved. Some may say this should already be obvious, but recent history would demonstrate this hasn’t always been the case.

The Tactical Delivery Plan is also now much more tightly defined and currently with group members for further feedback following the first ever National Workshop I held in December. This plan, and members support in delivering it, will be our key tool in the fight to end raptor persecution.

We spent a good chunk of the meeting discussing the need for a national awareness raising campaign and how I believe the award winning `Operation Owl` should be the brand for this. Utilising this approach has worked extremely well for `Operational Galileo` and hare coursing and I was able to share with the group some early concept work that had been produced on my behalf (thanks Chloe). Working closely with North Yorkshire Police, 2019 will see a number of high profile `Operation Owl` days as we look to broaden the reach of the brand and highlight the relentless persecution issue.

It is hoped that this in turn will lead to greater public awareness and increased intelligence reporting as a direct result. This will feed the newly forming Enforcement Sub-Group, to tackle head on those people responsible for shooting, poisoning and trapping our birds.

The group was updated on a number of other important issues, including the proposed White tailed Eagle Isle-of-White reintroduction, the Hen Harrier Action Plan and the three recently released Golden Eagle chicks (Edward, Beaky & Emily) in Southern Scotland. I look forward to working to support these initiatives moving forwards.

The group next meets towards the end of April, and will be hosted by North Yorkshire Police. During this meeting I very much hope to identify leads for a number of the initial critical actions and kick-start work to deliver them, including the nationwide roll-out of Operation Owl….

Let me close by saying this, the prevention of the ongoing and relentless persecution of OUR birds of prey has swiftly become a matter of real passion for me. Those that attempt to get in our way will just strengthen my resolve to see it end.

Together we are stronger.

Nick

Photo credit- image from google search (Male Hen Harrier)

2019- Year of the Raptor

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As we rapidly approach 2019 I thought it was timely to draft another quick blog post to keep you all updated. Since my last blog at the end of November I have continued to work tirelessly to raise awareness of the raptor persecution issue both within UK Policing but also the wider public.

I have recently had articles agreed for submission in Police Professional and Policing Insight, two well-regarded law enforcement publications, to ensure this important issue is kept on the minds of those involved in making critical resource deployment decisions. At a time when policing faces funding cut backs it is vital that the scale of the persecution issue is widely known, so that resource allocation decisions are made against this backdrop. I have also been in consultation with leading shooting publications and hope to have articles published early in the New Year.

Following the Persecution Workshop I chaired in London recently I have been working hard to refine the first draft action plan following feedback from members of the RPPDG. This will be an ongoing process I am sure but there are some really meaningful and progressive concepts that need greater discussion and progression.

I am confident that by the time I chair my first PDG meeting on 16th January that I will have a really task orientated document to share and take forward, a real focus for the group and something that we can all be held accountable for delivering. To give readers a flavour for some of the key strands of work I am looking for the PDG to take forward immediately are as below

1.    With the support of North Yorkshire Police, developing the WWF award winning `Operation Owl` into a national media campaign focused on raptor persecution. I plan for this will be supplemented by a new raptor persecution website that will contain key information, materials and updates from the PDG.

2.    The creation of an Enforcement Group that will focus on partnership working and the `Achilles Heel` approach to tackling head-on those people that are known or strongly suspected to be involved in persecution offences. Creation of a hostile environment for those committing persecution offences.

3.    Working with technology providers, for example What3Words, to support the activity strands of the PDG. I hope for this to also include working with satellite tag providers to ensure the very best technology is helping us combat persecution offences.

4.    Increased awareness and training for those involved in Wildlife Crime investigations, including police officers, force control rooms and partnership investigators.

 

I am delighted that a number of organisations not currently represented on the PDG have been in contact to ask how they can contribute to this important issue, I hope to be able to report some really positive developments here very soon, and for those organisations to support me in delivering against the plan by becoming members of the PDG.

Working together, with new partners and old, we will make raptor persecution a thing of the past.

 I will sign off this blog now by wishing you all a Happy New Year, here’s to 2019 being a successful one for everyone, but most importantly lets work together to ensure 2019 is the `Year of the Raptor`.

A New Beginning……

ACCIPITER GENTILIS

A New Beginning……

My first three months as Chair of the National Raptor PPDG have literally flown by (sorry). I have been busy meeting the key people that I know will be vital in supporting the work of the group moving forwards. I will use this month’s blog to update on some of these key meetings.

Firstly, I have been asked many times why I volunteered to lead this important work, and my answer has always been this

“It is my duty to leave this planet in a better condition, for my children and their families, than it was when I arrived here. My vocation to become a cop was to ensure the very worst of society aren’t free to roam the streets, and my voluntary role as chair of the RPPDG will ensure I can give my all to support our wildlife too”

To that end, I have been working hard to raise the public profile of the persecution issue, including an interview with The Daily Times newspaper, a recorded podcast with the RSPB, and some early contact being made with a number of other publications. I have also pulled together a presentation for the forthcoming National Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference (1st and 2nd December) which I hope will obtain further support for the `Enforcement Sub-Group` I will be introducing very soon.

Just last week I was delighted to lead the first ever National Raptor Persecution Workshop, bringing together key people to support the development of a Tactical Delivery Plan (TDP) that I will use to lead activity nationally against persecution. The workshop was attended by a wide range of organisations, including

  • National Wildlife Crime Unit
  • BASC
  • RSPB
  • NERF
  • Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust
  • Peak District Raptor Monitoring Group/ Birders Against Wildlife Crime
  • Raptor Persecution UK
  • National Trust
  • Natural England
  • Defra
  • Yorkshire Dales National Parks
  • Moorland Association
  • NGO
  • Countryside Alliance
  • A number of Police Forces

I am confident we now have a clear focus on the way forward that PPDG members can work together to deliver. I will report more on the TDP in forthcoming blog posts, the first draft is currently out for review by those attending the workshop. My thanks to all those taking the time to attend London to support this important work.

One of my most interesting meetings this month has been with Natural England, to explore and understand the detail of the National Hen Harrier Action Plan. To some, a controversial document, containing some controversial actions, but one that I look forward to supporting through the PDG wherever I can. Preventing the relentless persecution of this breed will be a clear priority for me.

Just this week I have spent time on patrol with the North Yorkshire Police Rural Task Force, prior to the National Wildlife Crime Tasking & Coordination Meeting. I was delighted to spend time with the Yorkshire Dales National Parks Chief Executive, David Butterworth and some of his ranger team. David clearly articulated his personal desire to eradicate raptor persecution and I look forward to working to achieve this with him and his team over the coming months and years. I then got onto the moors with a local gamekeeper, listening to his passion for wildlife and seeing first-hand the hard work that goes into sustainable land management and a fair few raptors in flight too.

I will continue to 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 continue to welcome and value this insight.

Thor….

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Today we have received the news that young hen harrier, Thor, has disappeared. It disappoints me greatly that these young tagged birds keep vanishing, but gives me more energy to fight ongoing raptor persecution head-on. The first ever National Raptor Persecution Workshop will take place in November, bringing key individuals together to harness ideas and activity that will deliver a real and long lasting difference, I will then drive this activity through the PPDG.

While it hasn’t been confirmed that this is a result of persecution, the circumstances will naturally lead people to believe this to be the case. I say this because the disappearance has occurred in a location where other hen harriers, namely Hope and Sky also disappeared without trace a few years ago under almost identical circumstances.

The matter has been reported to Lancashire Police and the RSPB and an investigation is underway.

Anybody with any information in relation to this matter should report this to the local police, through telephone 101 or,

RSPB Raptor Persecution Hotline

https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/rspb-appeals-to-shooting-industry-to-help-root-out-raptor-killers/

Crime Stoppers

https://crimestoppers-uk.org/

As the new chair of the Raptor PPDG, I committed to ensuring that there was a single voice when these incidents were bought to my attention.

Unfortunately the National Wildlife Crime Unit and I heard about this matter through blogs on twitter today. I have agreed therefore with the RSPB that we will share this important information between us moving forwards, the PPDG and NWCU having a social media presence is new for everyone and securing this RSPB support is a significant step forwards.

I am working hard behind the scenes with PPDG members to ensure we can respond quickly to these reported incidents, through this blog. PPDG members are committed to responding in this way and the next few weeks will see me progress this further.

While the latest disappearance absolutely needed a PPDG reply, receiving the news late in the day has only allowed me to contact a limited number of group members, a fuller update would have taken time and that PPDG silence will have been filled with conspiracy theory. I know future PPDG updates will include more comprehensive partnership statements.

A Northern England Raptor Forum representative said “NERF members, working alongside the RSPB, located this breeding pair, ringed the young and fitted a satellite tag to Thor. Two other satellite tagged birds, Hope and Sky, ‘disappeared’ in the same location, on a grouse moor. We expect all members of the RPPDG to condemn raptor persecution and work tirelessly to assist the Police in their investigation into this incident”

Amanda Anderson, Director of the Moorland Association said: “We join this appeal without hesitation and it is vital the police receive any possible information. This year we have been hugely encouraged by the best hen harrier breeding season in a decade and the fact that 60% of this year’s successfully fledged chicks had help from gamekeepers. At this stage it is not known if anything has happened to Thor beyond that the tag has stopped transmitting. It is widely recognised that that there is a high natural mortality rate for young hen harriers with only two out of every ten expected to survive their first year. We all know that collaboration is the key to successful conservation. As such, enhanced transparency and greater sharing of satellite tag data from the outset of birds’ lives would be a huge step in the right direction.”

I will edit this blog further as more PPDG members make contact

****ENDS****

 

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….