Free Life 30, May 1999, The Lead Shot Regulations, Reviewed by Sean Gabb

From Free Life, Issue 30, May 1999
ISSN: 0260 5112

Explanatory Paper on Draft Regulations
to Restrict the Use of Lead Shot

Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions
DETR, London, April 1999, 28pp., free (pbk)
(No ISBN)

Published on the 6th April 1999, this seems from its name a comparatively harmless proposal. The Regulations – effective as of the 1st September 1999 unless they are defeated – would ban the use of lead shot on "Sites of Special Scientific Interest" and below high water of ordinary spring tides, and ban the use of lead shot for hunting various game birds.

It is regrettable that most laws nowadays are never debated in Parliament, but simply issue in the name of a Minister under some enabling act that may have been taken through Parliament but was never itself discussed there.  It is regrettable that the authorities should not only have banned most guns from private ownership, but also be regulating the composition of what may be fired from the few that remain.  Even so, this surely is small stuff compared with the horrors pouring almost daily out of the Home Office.

Or is it?  Let us look at Regulation 4:

(1) A person who appears suitable to the Secretary of State or a local authority may be authorised in writing by the Secretary of State of that local authority to exercise, in accordance with the terms of the authorisation, any of the powers specified in paragraph (2) below for the purpose of determining whether any provision of these Regulations is being, or has been, complied with.

These powers include :

(a) to enter at any reasonable time any premises which he has reason to believe it is necessary for him to enter;…

(c) to make such examination and investigation as may in any circumstances be necessary

It is not necessary for authorised persons to obtain warrants for entry onto private property, or to have good cause for entry, or to be limited in what they may inspect and seize.  There is provision made later on for obtaining warrants, but this is only if entry has been or probably will be refused and force may be needed to effect an entry.  In any event, the mere act of requiring authorised persons to obtain warrants is to be a crime.  According to Regulation 5(2),

Any person who intentionally obstructs a person acting in the exercise of any power under regulation 4 above shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.

"Summary conviction" – that means trial by Magistrate, not by Jury, and therefore the near certainty of conviction without hearing.  And just to complete the bundle of powers given to these authorised persons, see Regulation 4(9):

An authorised person, including a person designated under paragraph (4) above, shall not be liable in any civil or criminal proceedings for anything done in the purported exercise of any power conferred by this regulation if the court is satisfied that the act was done in good faith and that there were reasonable grounds for doing so.

We are talking, therefore, about an arbitrary power of entry, search and seizure, with criminal punishments for resistance, and no legal redress for abuse of this power.  Not even under Jack Straw have  the normal Police yet been given all the powers of a Gestapo.  Such powers have been given to these faceless and uniformed authorised persons under a piece of delegated legislation that, but for the efforts of the Countryside Alliance, would have slid silently into the laws of this country.

There are about 20,000 pages of other delegated legislation made every year in the same way.  No one reads it all.  No one knows what it contains.

So much for parliamentary democracy!

Edward Hume (Sean Gabb)

(Editor's Note: Comments on these proposed Regulations may be made in writing to Mr J. Chorley, DETR, Room 902a, Tollgate House, Houlton Street, Bristol, BS2 9DJ, Fax:  0117 987 8182, e-mail: species@detr.gsi.gov.uk.  Comments should reach Mr Chorley before the 14th May 1999.  The Countryside Alliance can be reached on 0171 582 5432.

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