By Andrew Gilruth, GWCT Director of Communications
Chris Packham and Donald Trump have just discovered that threatening legal action can make you look daft.
This week a top US lawyer said, ‘There's a growing tendency to use the criminal justice system as sort of a default fix-all’ and demand an ‘investigation’ simply because you don’t like something. Court papers here have revealed that Chris Packham’s campaign group Wild Justice received similar bad news. Had its legal action to ban gamebird releasing near protected sites reached a courtroom - it would have failed.
Earlier this year Wild Justice sent Defra a ‘see you in court’ letter; unless Defra agreed to ban gamebird releasing within 5km of all EU level conservation sites. Since this is estimated to be about 60% of the countryside it was quite brazen.
Defra outmanoeuvred Wild Justice and it swiftly withdrew the action; presumably because its legal team realised demanding that pheasants are ‘investigated’ simply because you don’t like them is not something a court can resolve – as Donald Trump could now explain, you need to produce evidence to support your claim.
Curiously, the collapse of Wild Justice’s demand for a releasing ban did not stop Chris Packham from claiming a ‘victory’. All he needed was a few newspapers to not bother checking the BBC presenter’s claim matched reality, as we previously explained.
Perhaps spurred on by his belief that no one really doubts a BBC presenter's word he also decided to try and claim £35,000 in legal costs - for a case Wild Justice instigated and then withdrew. The bluff failed this time. The high court judge criticised the behaviour and threw the claim out.
Just as with the group’s first action, about the General Licences, Defra offered to (and then did) undertake a review of the issue, so there was no need to even take legal action. Wild Justice’s solicitors may have been delighted to bank their cheque, but I doubt Defra was amused to be spending its limited budgets on this little game.
Our legal system is no default fix-all. It never has been and never will be.