29 November 2000
New OP legal action being launched
By Donald MacPhail
NEW legal action is being launched on behalf of farmers who believe they were poisoned by organophosphate sheep dips.
A firm of Herefordshire solicitors believes it can secure compensation for farmers, even though a major legal claim was abandoned less than two months ago.
London solicitors Hodge Jones & Allen pulled out after advising farmers that it had failed to uncover sufficient evidence to link OP dips with ill-health.
It said it was unable to justify any more public money being spent by the Legal Services Commission, formerly the Legal Aid Board, on the action.
The commission decides on legal funding by assessing the probable success of a case on the basis of generic evidence from solicitors.
Angry producers accused the company of letting them down and it was unclear whether action could continue as the failed action had already swallowed up 2m of legal aid.
But Gabb & Co solicitors in Hay on Wye believe the case can be revived, and have lodged an appeal with the Legal Services Commission
Elisabeth Charles of Gabb & Co said: We will go to the Legal Services Commission with evidence that we think should form the basis of a claim and hope they will reconsider their decision.
As a secondary argument, she will argue that genuine claimants are being denied access to the courts, which could be in contravention of the 1998 Human Rights Act.
Mrs Charles, whose firm covers a rural area, said from first-hand evidence she had seen she firmly believed that sheep dippers had been affected by OPs.
No decision is expected from the commission until the end of January.