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April 27 2005


The Government is facing a 40,000 compensation bill after a judge ruled it should have paid for a 7,000 foot-and-mouth clean-up operation at a Devon farm. Mr Justice Hart told London's High Court that farmer Graeme Hill, of Lower Dunscombe Farm, Chudleigh, had to kill 2,000 sheep and 160 cattle in April, 2001, as a precaution against the disease.

Although the farm was later declared free of foot and mouth, a clean-up operation followed the slaughter, and Mr Hill carried it out in return for payment from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. But Defra refused to pay because Mr Hill was then an undischarged bankrupt.

It claimed the contract it had drawn up with a company called New Century Farms Ltd was invalid because Mr Hill was disqualified from running a firm. It conceded Mr Hill's wife Denise was sole director, but said she was effectively his proxy.

Mr Hill and the company sued for the money, also claiming Defra had negligently caused damage during the clean-up. Mr Justice Hart said the company was entitled to damages and Mr Hill to compensation for animal feed destroyed and polytunnels damaged.

He said cattle were killed in the tunnels, their carcasses began to rot under the greenhouse conditions, and the structures were broken up to slow down the rate of decomposition.

The exact damages will now be decided by another judge.

Mr Justice Hart also ordered Defra to pay 80 per cent of the 37,000 legal costs incurred by Mr Hill and New Century