Thursday, 21 June 2012

DEFRA Refuses to Name Estate Involved In Cancelled Buzzard Trial

Pretty much expected DEFRA are refusing to release the name of the estate that allegedly made repeated requests to control Buzzards here in Northumberland deeming that disclosing this information would expose the shoots and the individuals living and working there to potential violent objection and
would potentially place those persons at risk of physical harm. 



Perfectly understandable of course that they wish to protect the men with the shotguns from that violent and despicable section of society that is the birdwatching and conservation community...

Full text below, anyone with any experience of challenging these ridiculous notions please feel free to get in touch as I still believe it is in the public interest to know whether the estate in question has any connection or association with Richard Benyon. Hopefully the other FoI request taking a different tack will have more success.

Thank you for your request for information about the names and locations of estates in
Northumberland which were included as suggested sites for research within the
specification for the previously-advertised research project CTE1201, which we received
on 22 May. As you know, we have handled your request under the Environmental
Information Regulations 2004 (EIRs).
I can confirm that Defra does hold the information that you have requested, but we have
decided that the information should be withheld under the exception provided by regulation
12(5)(a) of the EIR, relating to the protection of public safety. This regulation states:.
“…a public authority may refuse to disclose information to the extent that its
disclosure would adversely affect…
(a) international relations, defence, national security or public safety;”
Any disclosure made under the EIRs is, in effect, a disclosure to the world at large, as any
other applicant would be entitled to the same information on request. To release under the
EIRs – and, thus place in the public domain – information that would identify the location of
the previously-advertised research would adversely affect public safety. As you are
aware, the original proposals for this research were withdrawn when public concerns were
raised. Defra officials will collaborate with all the organisations that have an interest in this
issue and will bring forward new proposals for research.
The non-lethal management of birds of prey for the purposes of preventing serious
damage is a sensitive issue, which the recent public concern has demonstrated. We
believe that the release of the site locations would impact adversely upon the protection of
the individuals, public buildings, and the health and safety of the individuals at the sites.
The exception to disclosure at regulation 12(5)(a) of the EIRs is subject to the public
interest test, which means that we have to consider whether the public interest in
disclosure of the information outweighs the public interest in withholding the information.
Therefore, in applying this exception, we have taken account of the public interest for and
against disclosure of the information that you have requested. While we believe that it is
important that the public was made aware of the proposals, and their subsequent
reconsideration, we consider that it is not in the public interest to disclose the exact
location of these sites. The public right to protest must be balanced against the risk of
harm to persons and property. We believe that disclosing this information would expose
the shoots and the individuals living and working there to potential violent objection and
would potentially place those persons at risk of physical harm. It is not in the public interest
to disclose information where that would put people at such a risk of harm. Consequently,
we have concluded that this information is exempt from disclosure under the exception at
regulation 12(5) of the EIRs.

6 comments:

Gavin Haig said...

'The non-lethal management of birds of prey for the purposes of preventing serious
damage is a sensitive issue...'


Never has the word 'serious' been quite so subjectively applied!

northernloon said...

Thanks for posting that Alan; a most illuminating insight. I worked for DEFRA and it's various predecessors in a variety of roles and it seems the policy of non-disclosure still holds sway.

The taxpayer pays massive amounts to estate owners under a variety of schemes. It seems like another case of letting them have their cake and eating it.

Pete Woodruff said...

Good to see you're not letting go of this one Alan. There's otherwise so much silence within 'some' quarters of the birding community it worries me sometimes.

The Liverbirder said...

Alan - more power to your pen (keyboard). In my line of work, we get hods of FOI requests. I think the next step is the Information Commissioner but will check and get back.

Anonymous said...

What would have happened if the research have gone ahead? Presumably DEFRA would have even more reason to protect the secrecy of the site, so those with violent intent would not know where to protest. Perhaps, by extension, it should be concluded that this research should not go ahead because it would be simply too dangerous for those involved at the Estate concerned.

The Liverbirder said...

FOI Appeal - within 40 days of the response from DEFRA (DEAF-RA!), write back to them and appeal. Send the latter to their Disclosure Manager. IF that fails: Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF
Phone: 01625 545 700