A LONDON-BASED law firm is calling for farmers to join a £2bn legal action against the government over the alleged mis-handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
The firm, Class Law, said it believed it had secured a professional backer that will allow it to represent anyone who lost income because of the crisis on a no-win, no-fee basis.
Class Law partner Stephen Alexander explained the basis of the case to FARMERS WEEKLY.
“Our case against the government focuses on the crucial delay between the discovery of the disease at an abattoir in Essex and the halting of animal movements,” Mr Alexander said.
“The delay allowed the disease to spread by a huge factor – there is no question of that. The rest of the EU shut movements down immediately but the UK delayed its ban.
“Areas of the country were affected that, if the government had taken decisive action earlier, would never have had to suffer the trauma of the disease,” said Mr Alexander.
“We now need [FARMERS WEEKLY] readers to come forward so that we can take this case forward,” he said.
The action might include anyone who lost income including pubs, guest houses and shops. “But probably the strongest cases though are farmers,” said Mr Alexander.
“Those farmers who were shut down under Form D movement restrictions and didn‘t receive a penny are most notable. We need to hear from as many as possible to help me help them.”
But the reaction to the planned legal proceedings from farmers was mixed.
Ifor Humphreys‘ Montgomeryshire beef and sheep farm was shut down under a Form D restriction for five months.
“We incurred losses and we could put figures on those for a court case. We had tremendous difficulty,” said Mr Humphreys, who was NFU Cymru county chairman during the crisis.
“The countryside was effectively shut down.”
But despite the hardship and financial losses Mr Humphreys said he was reluctant to join a legal action.
“Going back over all this and taking on the government is a big step. Personally I‘m wary of it all. But I wish them all the best.”
In contrast Devon farmer Denny Hooper, of Glebe Farm, Folly Gate, Devon, said he would consider joining the action because he had lost thousands of pounds when under movement restrictions.
“I think the government should be made to know that they were wrong – they handled it terribly.”
Class Law can be contacted on 020 7724 2526.