Declassified files: Royal Prerogative for farmers was ruled out

The Home Office, the Vehicle Licensing Office, the police and the judiciary all opposed the plan to help disqualified farmers
The Home Office, the Vehicle Licensing Office, the police and the judiciary all opposed the plan to help disqualified farmers

Civil servants refused a request to use the Royal Prerogative of Mercy to help farmers who had been disqualified from driving, according to Government files from 1988.

Officials concluded it would be “inappropriate” to use the measure to restore the licences of farmers, whose lands straddled public roads, to enable them to drive tractors.

A confidential briefing paper from the NIO criminal justice branch said there was “no positive support” to give farmers special treatment.

It stated: “Farmers are perhaps the least affected by disqualification as they can generally carry on working on their land.

“In the circumstances we have concluded that there is nothing to commend using the Royal Prerogative to give farmers special treatment which could be perceived as undermining the law.”

The issue came to the fore following the conviction of a farmer for drink-driving. He was jailed for six months and banned from the roads for 10 years after being found guilty of his third drink-driving offence in a decade.

A petition calling for the partial restoration of his licence was backed by the civil rights veteran and former SDLP MP Austin Currie who highlighted the case in a letter to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State, according to the files.

The briefing paper outlines opposition to the move from the Home Office, the Vehicle Licensing Office and the police.

The judiciary were also opposed and said farmers should be treated in the same manner as all other road users.