COMPENSATION FOR INDIVIDUALS CONVICTED OF
Under the Animal Health Bill it will become
an offence for anyone without lawful authority or excuse knowingly
to do anything which causes or is intended to cause an animal
to be infected with a serious animal disease. These are the diseases
specified in the new Schedule 2A to the Animal Health Act to be
inserted by the Bill.
The Minister would need sufficient evidence
of deliberate infection to support a prosecution. If sufficient
proof could be obtained in due course by investigating epidemiologists,
vets, Local Authority inspectors and DEFRA's own investigation
branch, this matter would be pursued in the courts.
Regardless of whether a prosecution was conducted,
there would remain an obligation under the Animal Health Act 1981
as amended to pay at least the basic amount of compensation (ie
75 per cent of the pre-FMD value of the animals).To deprive someone
of the remainder of their compensation would risk breaching the
requirements of Article 1 of the First Protocol to the European
Convention on Human Rights, which protects the property rights
of individuals from arbitrary action by the State, by upsetting
the fair balance between the interests of the individual and those
of the community.
If the Bill is passed in its present form, deliberate
infection will become an offence against the Animal Health Act
1981 (as amended) and deliberate infection could be relevant for
the purposes of carrying out the disease risk assessment and to
the decision on how much compensation should be paid within the
75 per cent-100 per cent range.
However, it is extremely unlikely that the disease
risk assessment conducted on the day of slaughter would provide
a level of evidence of deliberate infection sufficient to establish
that this offence had occurred. It is therefore not intended to
include this in the list of items to be assessed, but of course
other items under the general heading of "biosecurity"
will be on that list.
If an owner of an animal of a species susceptible
to FMD deliberately infects it to prompt the minister to slaughter
it, and so triggers the obligation for the minister to pay them
compensation, there remains the possibility of a prosecution under
the Theft Act for the offence of obtaining by deception. There
are also other offences for which charges could be brought. However,
in all of these cases, it has been very difficult to obtain the
necessary proof for any of these offences and none of the provisions
under which charges might be brought was ever intended to deal
with conduct of this sort.
The maximum penalty for the new offence of deliberate
infection would be imprisonment for up to two years and/or an
unlimited fine in the case of the Crown Court or imprisonment
for up to six months and/or a fine of up to the statutory maximum
(currently £5,000) in the case of the Magistrates' Court.