The Western Morning News

Hopes have been raised that a High Court decision not to hold a public inquiry into foot and mouth crisis could be challenged.

Following a three-and-a-half-day hearing in London in February, judgesturned down a call on behalf of 15 claimants, including farmers, vets and rural businessmen from Devon and Somerset, who demanded a full publicinquiry into the crisis.

Now it is hoped that the necessary 360,000 will be found to fund further legal action after the deadling for an appeal against the decision wasextended by Lord Justice Simon Brown to Friday April 19.

Taunton based Tim Russ was the instruction solicitor for Richard Lissack QC,who acted for eight of the 15 claimants on a no-win, no-fee basis during the case.Mr. Russ called on membersof the rual community to pledge money towards anappeal.

"I really don't think it's an important amount of money for the whole farming industry, despite the despressed state it's in at the moment," he said."We need about 310,000 to prepare our application for permission to appeal against the High Court ruling and about 350,000 to finance the appeal itself.

.Mr. Russ said that the decision to turndown the challenge was premature,prior to the outcome of the Government's own inquiries into the foot andmouth outbreak

."The fact the House of Lords seemed to agree with us by booting out theAnimal Health Bill until the curent inquiry results come out isencouraging.""I really don't think we can make provision for what may happen in thefuture until we properly deal with the past."There is a very important bigger issue as to who had the right to call aninquiry and why. The judges were quite worried about that in the first instance.

"If the Court of Appeal gave permission, an appeal would be heard in the HighCourt in London by three Law Lords.

Mr. Russ said "If we win an appeal I think there is a 50-50 chance ofpersuading the Law Lords that the Government was wrong not to hold a publicinquiry.Many in the Westcountry farming community reacted with anger at last month'sdecision to turn down the call for a full public inquiry.Ian Johnson, spokesman for the South West National Farmers' Union, said theregional branch had approached its head office to see if funding could begiven to the caused but without success.He added "If there are people who have any spare cash in the farmingindustry - which is extremely unlikely - then we would wholeheartedly back them in giving money to this appeal."

Anyone who would like to give money towards an appeal should telephone Mr.Russ on 01823 445218.