Specialist says chance high of winning action

7 December 2001

Specialist says chance high of winning action

MORE than a 60% chance of success is how legal specialist Tim Russ rates the likelihood of winning legal action aimed at forcing the government to hold a public inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis.

"We believe we can show the government was wrong not to respond to requests to hold a public inquiry into its handling of the F&M crisis," said Tim Russ, head of the agricultural law team at West Country firm, Clarke Willmott Clarke.

A chance to persuade a judge to order the government to hold a public inquiry will come next February during a judicial review of the governments decision at Londons High Court. Two other legal teams, Welsh firm Gabb and Co and Bristol-based Burges Salmon are gathering evidence with Clarke Willmott Clarke on behalf of claimants who suffered hardship due to the crisis. After hearing evidence supporting pleas for a public inquiry and the opposing view from a DEFRA law team, the judge will decide whether to order ministers to open a public inquiry.

A DEFRA spokeswoman said the department would defend the governments decision to hold two independent inquiries and a policy commission in the aftermath of F&M.

farmers weekly has pledged to support part of the costs of the legal action in association with Western Morning News and The Western Mail (News, Oct 19).

To support the campaign, with pledges of money or evidence, contact Tim Russ at Clarke Willmott Clarke, Blackbrook Gate, Park Avenue, Taunton, TA1 2PG (01823-445218 and fax 01823-445816). &#42


Nov 01 Three legal firms apply for a judicial review of the governments decision not to hold a Public Inquiry into the foot-and-mouth crisis on behalf of named claimants.

Nov 01 DEFRA decides not to challenge the application for a judicial review.

Feb 02 Judicial review hearing to be held in Londons High Court.

Feb 02 A judge will decide whether to order the government to hold a Public Inquiry.

December 6, 2001

The Rt Hon Tony Blair, MP

House of Commons

London SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Blair,

The international situation has, we appreciate, concentrated much of your attention on foreign affairs and domestic security.

We believe, however, that now is the time to build upon the work of the three independent inquiries into foot-and-mouth and farming and the countryside. Only a public inquiry, with the power to compel witnesses to give evidence, and open to public scrutiny, can reveal the valuable lessons that must be learned if such a disaster is not to be repeated. Only the openness of a public inquiry will allow those, whose lives have been shattered by the tragedy of foot-and-mouth, to face the future with confidence. Farmers, hoteliers, rural business people, animal rights campaigners – all have burning questions about the origins and handling of this crisis. Only a public inquiry can provide the free and frank information they need to put the trauma of this year behind them.

In addition to all the human and animal suffering, as well as the £bns of damage suffered by our agriculture and tourist industries, we believe holding a public inquiry would make a major contribution to national security. British Veterinary Association vice-president David Tyson has several times warned that lax meat import controls could pose a terrorist threat if they were used to disguise biological weapons. Leading scientists also believe illegal meat imports may have been responsible for Februarys outbreak of foot-and-mouth. Only a public inquiry will uncover the truth and re-assure the public that our controls are sufficient to the challenge facing them.

To canvass support for a public inquiry farmers weekly has joined forces with leading regional newspapers: Western Morning News in Plymouth; The Western Mail in Cardiff; The Journal in Newcastle and Horse&Hound magazine. Together we have collected more than 112,000 pledges of support for a public inquiry.

The Editors of the five titles would very much appreciate the opportunity to present these signatures to you at Downing Street and to discuss the strength of opinion which supports a public inquiry. We do hope that you will be able to find time within your busy schedule to accommodate our request.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Howe

Editor, farmers weekly.

On behalf of:

Neil Fowler

Editor, The Western Mail, Cardiff.

Arnold Garvey

Editor, Horse&Hound.

Ged Henderson

Editor, The Journal, Newcastle.

Barrie Williams

Editor, Western Morning News, Plymouth.

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