Badger cull legal battle leaves £57,000 taxpayer bill

Taxpayers have paid more than £57,000 for the legal battle surrounding the planned cull of badgers on farmland in west Wales – including a £20,000 payment for costs incurred by the Badger Trust.

The £57,446.65 external legal costs incurred by the Welsh Assembly Government were revealed by the chief veterinary officer for Wales, Dr Christianne Glossop.

The costs racked up as the assembly government hit a series of legal stumbling blocks when it tried to press ahead with its plan to cull around 1500 badgers as part of a strategy to eradicate bovine TB in Wales.

The initial judicial review cost £24,679 and, although the assembly government was successful, the Badger Trust had applied for its costs to be capped. “The Welsh Assembly Government did not object to their [the Badger Trust’s] application for a court order capping their liability at £10,000 because they are a charitable organisation. Therefore, £10,000 of the Welsh Assembly Government’s counsel’s costs were reimbursed by the Badger Trust,” said a spokesman for the assembly.

But defeat came in the Court of Appeal last month when, following a second challenge by the Badger Trust, a judge ruled that the assembly government was wrong to make a cull order for the whole of Wales when it consulted on the basis of an Intensive Action Pilot Area (IAPA) which only supported a cull on evidence within the IAPA.

“The Judgement of the Court of Appeal limited the Badger Trust’s costs to £10,000 in relation to the proceedings in the High Court and £10,000 in relation to the proceedings in the Court of Appeal. The Welsh Ministers were therefore ordered to pay £20,000 in respect of the Badger Trust’s costs following the successful appeal,” the spokesman added.

The cost of the contractors involved in the badger sett survey work is not currently available and has therefore not been released.

Despite the ruling and the costs incurred to date, Wales’ rural affairs minister, Elin Jones, said she would fight on.

A consultation period is expected to begin soon but the groundwork for getting a new TB eradication order in place is believed to be already under way, even though the assembly is in recess.

The laying of a new order would, however, have to take place after the assembly reconvenes on 19 September.