The Crown Prosecution Service has agreed to pass on information to a senior police officer about possible links between organophosphorous sheep dips and suicide cases among farmers and farm workers.

Lancashire anti-OP campaigner Brenda Sutcliffe supplied the information to the CPS and has hailed its agreement to involve the police as the biggest breakthrough in her 14-year campaign.

She would like action taken against the dip manufacturers and believes she now has a good chance of achieving that.

“If there is a case to be heard I understand it would be based on some kind of corporate responsibility,” said Mrs Sutcliffe, who farms near Rochdale.

Her relentless campaign follows her entire family’s serious mental illness which followed their use of OP dips in 1992.

“We went to hell and back and so have many others since. My entire family was in a desperate mental state and threatening to commit suicide. I have campaigned to have these products banned ever since,” said Mrs Sutcliffe.

The CPS has been sent evidence compiled and published by Mrs Sutcliffe in the second edition of her booklet on OP sheep dips, Cause and Effect.

Mrs Sutcliffe said she was desperate to have this matter properly examined. “The NFU and the National Sheep Association are still promoting OP dips,” she added.

Nigel Chapman of the CPS in Leicester stressed that the CPS was a prosecution service and not an investigation service. “We have received information from Mrs Sutcliffe and have passed it on to a senior police officer in Leicester,” said Mr Chapman.

A spokesman for the trade body that represents chemical manufacturers – the National Office of Animal Health – said it was aware the information was in the hands of the police but did not want to comment further.

Campaigners got a second boost this week as an important OP study, threatened with closure, was granted a reprieve by junior DEFRA minister Ben Bradshaw.

The research, led by Sarah Mackenzie Ross, from University College, London, was already half way through its four-year term when the Veterinary Medicines Directorate voiced concerns over the way the study was being conducted.

Elizabeth Sigmund, campaign co-ordinator of the OP Information Network, said she was delighted that the project had been allowed to continue. “It is going to be the most definitive and important study that’s ever been done.”

The research is due to be completed in January 2008, at a total cost of £667,000. The team is now visiting farmers in the north and south-west of England for a day of psychological testing, blood testing and interviewing.

They are also seeking to find more sheep farmers who have retired or reduced their workload due to ill health, particularly in northern England, to take part in the study.

fwnews@rbi.co.uk

For more information on the UCL trial contact Kelly Abraham on 01756 790 686/07904 082 273 or kelly.abraham@ucl.ac.uk