Wild Justice forced to pay legal costs after losing case

BASC Wales says the legal costs following the general licence case are a 'wake-up call' for Wild Justice
BASC Wales says the legal costs following the general licence case are a 'wake-up call' for Wild Justice

Wild Justice has been ordered to pay £10,000 legal costs to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) following their loss in the High Court.

Last week, the court ruled that NRW's General Licences to control wild birds were lawful following a legal challenge by the campaigning body.

The licences are available for the purpose of preventing serious damage or disease to crops or livestock, protecting public health and conserving certain species of wild birds.

Legal costs were claimed by the lawyers representing NRW following Judge Jarman QC dismissing all three claims made by Wild Justice on the legality of the licences.

The £10,000 is the most available under the Aarhus Convention, which sets a cap on environmental cases.

The British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC) said the significant legal costs were 'a wake-up call' for Wild Justice.

“For two years, Wild Justice has used the legal system to attack shooting and those who manage the countryside," said Steve Griffiths, BASC Wales director.

"They failed on all three grounds of this claim and now the judge has ordered them to pay costs at the maximum level possible.

“This is another significant defeat for Wild Justice and the manner in which they lost has been watched closely by other organisations and communities.”

He said a newly set-up 'Fighting Fund' afforded BASC the ability to cover legal bills, register as an interested party and add its voice to NRW’s defence.

Mr Griffiths added: “It was right for BASC to make sure shooting had a voice in court and to support Natural Resources Wales in defending their general licence.

“We knew from the outset that we would not be able to claim back our costs, but it was money well spent so that shooting could stand up to Wild Justice and show the countryside would not be bullied.”

What was the legal challenge?

The legal challenge made by Wild Justice related to general licences GL001, GL002 and GL004 to kill wild birds issued by NRW on 1 January 2020.

The grounds of challenge centred around how the body went about assessing whether there were other satisfactory solutions to killing the birds listed in the General Licences.

It also looked at the extent to which the licences specified the circumstances in which they may be relied on, and whether NRW had sufficient evidence to justify derogating from the general prohibition on the killing of wild birds.