Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Annex 3


Informal appeal to the DVM

  It is proposed that the informal appeal mechanism currently operated as part of DEFRA's internal procedures should remain part of the process. Accordingly, it will still be possible to request the Divisional Veterinary Manager to reconsider a decision to cull.

Applications for entry warrants

  If, following such an appeal, the decision remains that animals are to be slaughtered but entry to the premises is refused, the new provisions would permit entry to be carried out on the basis of a warrant issued by a justice of the peace. Similar provisions will apply in the case of vaccination and serology and for the powers relating to scrapie.

  As the Minister indicated to the Committee, this is far from being an unusual procedure and there are numerous examples of similar provisions in other legislation.

  Before a justice of the peace would be entitled to issue an entry warrant, he or she would have to be satisfied that the necessary requirements are met. These are as follows:

    —  There must be reasonable grounds for the inspector to enter the land or premises for the intended purpose.


    —  Either:

    Admission to the land or premises must have been refused (or such refusal must be expected) and notice of the intention to apply for a warrant must have been given to the occupier of the land or premises,


    An application for admission or notice of the intention to apply for a warrant would defeat the object of entering, the case is one of urgency, the land or premises are unoccupied or the occupier of the land or premises is absent.

  The answer to a question put by a member of the Committee is that any justice is still uncertain on the basis of that information put before him or her would be entitled to (and would have to) decline to issue the warrant.

  Any justice considering whether or not to issue a warrant must take into account all of the relevant circumstances and is entitled to be provided with all the information necessary to reach a decision by the person making an application. The courts have also held that there is no obligation to hear arguments from the other side, although they do have discretion to do so.

Judicial Review

  Even if a warrant is issued, it will be open for that decision to be challenged by means of Judicial Review proceedings. Contrary to allegations that have been made, nothing in the Bill would restrict that in any way.

  Although it is true to say that this would be likely in most cases to take place after the animals are slaughtered, it would be possible for an application for Judicial Review to be expedited and it would also be possible to apply for interim relief pending a hearing—it would be up to an Administrative Court judge to decide whether or not to grant expedition and/or interim relief in any particular case.

Training for magistrates

  Any decision on training for magistrates will be for those responsible for that function. However, we are not aware of any current proposals to provide magistrates with specific training on the provisions of the Bill. Magistrates are already expected to (and able to) deal with applications relating to a wide variety of subject matters.

  The safeguard remains that any justice faced with such an application would have to be satisfied on the basis of the information put before them that the requirements for a warrant are met before issuing a warrant.

Compensation Appeals

  The procedure for compensation appeals is somewhat different, reflecting the different degree of urgency involved.

  The Bill provides in outline for the right of anyone who receives less than 100 per cent compensation to appeal to an independent person. The detailed procedure for such appeals will be governed by statutory instrument and will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

  The Bill does provide for a prescribed fee to be paid in respect of appeals. That fee is refundable in the event of the appeal succeeding to any extent whatsoever and was intended to act as a deterrent against frivolous and vexatious appeals. It is not intended to be used as a means of recovering the full cost of conducting appeals.

  It is not unusual for the level of such fees to be prescribed by means of statutory instruments. Any order prescribing the level of the fee would be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny.

  There is also provision in the Bill to allow fees to be waived. It is intended to exercise this power in order to waive fees in cases of hardship. This was intended to reflect the case law relating to access to justice and to address concerns similar to those expressed by members of the Committee regarding the possibility that the provision for a fee might deter genuine cases as well as frivolous or vexatious ones.

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