April 22 ~ Class Law Solicitors (hand) delivered the following letter to the Government today (April 22). This signals the beginning of a landmark legal challenge over the Government's handling of the foot-and-mouth crisis.
Class Law uphold that MAFF/DEFRA ignored opportunities to pick up on the disease, and failed to stop all movement of animals for four days after official notification.
Scientific evidence and expert witnesses support the case at every stage, and the letter states clearly that the Government acted unlawfully and irresponsibly.
The letter, addressed to DEFRA, seeks Pre-Action Disclosure on behalf of the UK Rural Business Campaign which represents victims throughout Britain. "The UKRBC is fighting for full and fair compensation for all those affected, a public inquiry and the establishing of safeguards to ensure an outbreak on such a scale never happens again. In parts of the country, some were so desperate that they committed suicide....Some businesses have survived, but at a great cost; others have not. Although the disease has now been eradicated, its scars remain - no longer on the animals, but on the lives and livelihood of thousands of people. It is these people who have felt constrained to join together to form the UK Rural Business Campaign " (See full press release)
April 22 ~ " The evidence that our clients have uncovered so far indicates that the Department were negligent in relation to both the detection and also the control of the disease...
...Their failures set out above amount also to breaches of statutory duty, breaches of European law and of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the ECHR. More particularly, it is likely that the above failures are indicative of misfeasance in public office. "
The Class Law letter refers to alleged failures on the part of MAFF and/or DEFRA to investigate and/or recognise FMD before the official confirmation on 20th February 2001
It points out that in January 2001 there were sheep in various parts of the country which were lame and there were sheep miscarrying. No laboratory tests were carried out.
Export certificates were signed without the necessary checks being carried out.
A vet at a slaughter house in early February, suspected FMD and ordered all the animals to be slaughtered but Ministry tests do not seem to have been carried out to eliminate or confirm FMD.
After antibodies were detected in sheep exported to France and the authorities redistributed the sheep at the points of export (against advice) among various farmers through the country.
The Department permitted the livestock haulier, who had delivered the allegedly infected pigs to Cheale meats, to drive around in the same van without its being ordered to be disinfected.
The letter points out that, contrary to Article 1 of Commission Decision 2001/145/EC of 21st February 2001, the Government appear not to have imposed restrictions on movement .....during which time the disease was free to spread through the UK. (see letter)