A legal expert has urged landowners to check any agreements they have in place for shooting over their land after an estate lost 75 per cent of its Single Farm Payment following the conviction of its gamekeeper for killing wild birds.
Tom Devey, a Partner and agriculture specialist at Shropshire law firm FBC Manby Bowdler, said the case of the Stody Estate should sound a warning to anyone who allows shooting to take place on their land.
The estate’s former gamekeeper was given a 10-week suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs after he was found guilty of killing 10 buzzards and a sparrowhawk on the shooting estate.
The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has said the Norfolk estate will face a penalty of three quarters of its 2014 payment – believed to be around £200,000 – following the conviction as part of a cross compliance investigation. It is the first fine of its kind for a raptor killing offence.
Tom said: “This case has been a wake up call to landowners and is a clear move by the powers that be to make them liable even if they had no knowledge of what had been happening on their land.
“The specific Cross Compliance provision relating to the management of wild birds on farmland states you must not intentionally kill, injure or take any wild bird, which is why the RPA has fined the estate.
“All landowners must be aware of the potential implications of a breach of Cross Compliance by anybody they permit onto their land.”
He added: “If you let the shooting rights on your land, you should ensure you have a well drafted shooting lease containing an indemnity, so you can claim against a tenant if you suffer as a consequence of their actions.
“The best advice is always, however, to make sure you are aware of the your obligations as a landowner and, if there is any doubt, speak to one of our specialists in agricultural law who can make sure your position is as secure as possible.”