GOVERNMENT ACCUSED OF OPERATING PRICE-FIXING CARTEL WITH CHEMICAL COMPANIES
SENIOR JUDGE DEMANDS INQUIRY AND SAID DEFRA HAD "TAKEN A SLEDHEHAMMER TO CRACK THE WRONG NUT"
Following the dramatic end of a prosecution today relating to pesticide imports, a Senior Crown Court Judge has called for an inquiry against the Department for Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and a report to the Competition Commission.
At the hearing at Shrewsbury Crown Court, His Honour Judge Onions said that Defra, through its agent the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) had "unwittingly or wittingly collaborated with chemical companies to maintain a cartel".
The prosecution was brought against
John Rawlings, an independent importer of pesticides, who was accused of
bringing pesticides into the
The Court heard evidence from witnesses
from the pesticide companies including Syngenta and BASF who admitted under cross
examination that the major companies deliberately manipulate the market to
force the price of pesticides up in the
In closing the case His Honour Judge Onions said that the case was of great public interest and it should be the pesticide companies being investigated. He added that in pursuing Mr Rawlings Defra had "taken a sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut". He concluded by saying that he would be writing to Kerr Wilson, the Chief Executive of PSD, asking for an inquiry into why the prosecution had been brought and what lessons PSD and Defra had learned from the case.
Defra decided not to proceed with eleven of the charges against Mr Rawlings after the Judge threatened to witness summons a Senior Defra Minster. Mr Rawings was given a conditional discharge on three offences.
After the trial Mr Rawlings said: "This case should never have come to court. It has put enormous pressure on me but I hope that I have made a stand for free trade and a fair deal for farmers".
Denise Dowen, a Regulatory Partner at
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