Newry & Armagh DUP Assembly candidate William Irwin has welcomed the outcome of a judicial review taken by the Ulster Farmers’ Union which focused on penalties incurred by farmer Ian Marshall after a ‘non intentional’ pollution incident.
Mr Irwin welcomed the decision of the courts and said that the ruling would send a very clear message to officials that their treatment of farmers on cross compliance issues has been “draconian”.
He stated: “I very much welcome this outcome and I fully share the view of the Union that there is no acceptable level of pollution. The environment must be protected and that is a view held by every right thinking farmer in the Province. The outcome of this judicial review in clarifying the issue of intentional and negligent breaches, is important for every farmer in Northern Ireland and sends a very clear message to the Department.
“The level of penalty in this particular court case was exceptionally high and also the view of an independent appeal panel was foolishly rejected by Departmental officials. I know of many other cases where farmers have been fined extremely heavily for what were minor cross compliance issues and the Department showed absolutely no leniency. This ruling proves what I have said for some time, that the interpretation by Departmental officials of cross compliance rules and regulations in certain circumstances, has been in my view overzealous.
“In my time in the committee I took forward the issue of penalties for missing ear tags and successfully lobbied for an adjustment in the rules in line with practices elsewhere in the U.K. The effect of this was to have a much more realistic and workable system which is reflective of the challenges of farming larger herds. I highlighted recent concerns where farmers had late TB tests and incurred large penalties which were in my view totally unacceptable when considering the genuine circumstances affecting the farmers at the time, but officials showed no leniency.”
Mr Irwin concluded: “This is a landmark result and I would like to see a review of previous breaches and penalties as I know others have been treated in the same manner. The ruling by the courts will send a shockwave through the Department and serve to ensure that all material facts are taken into account in any future case and that in turn will better serve our agriculture industry.”
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