June 19 2007 ~DEFRA had "taken a sledgehammer to crack the wrong nut" says Judge, but only DEFRA's one-sided version is picked up by journalists
In a dramatic summing up that should have been splashed across front pages last week, a Senior Crown Court Judge called for an inquiry
against DEFRA . On June 13th, at the end of a case brought by DEFRA against an independent importer of chemicals, the judge said that DEFRA, through its agent the PSD, had "unwittingly or wittingly collaborated with chemical companies to maintain a cartel".
http://www.gnn.gov.uk/Content/Detail.asp?ReleaseID=291831&NewsAreaID=2 for its report of the case
His Honour Judge Onions also recommended that a report should be sent to the Competition Commission.
John Rawlings had been accused of bringing pesticides into the UK from Italy and the Netherlands in breach of Defra controls. Elsewhere in the EU such chemicals are permitted and the products produced with their help are legally imported into the UK. See Press release
However, what is particularly alarming about this case is the less than frank version of the case given by DEFRA on the Government News Network. Nowhere does it mention that, found technically guilty on only three of the 14 counts, the defendant had been ordered to pay only 20% of DEFRA's costs. Nor does it mention that the judge had castigated the Department after an eight day case costing the taxpayer £10,000 a day, nor that he, in exasperation, he had even threatened to "witness summons the Minister" for 10.00 a.m. the following morning if DEFRA continued to prevaricate.
DEFRA's wholly one-sided version, also posted on the Pesticides Safety Directorate website, blackens the name of John Rawlings while adopting a sanctimonious tone that threatens farmers, if they obtain products not "approved for use in the UK as part of their good agricultural practice", with losing part of their Single Farm Payment (whereupon it disappears, presumably into the PSD itself since Objective 4 of their 16 page 'business plan' is "To ... recover the full cost of our operations from the
industry " and to " contribute to the government's efficiency agenda." ) Other news agencies, including www.farminguk.com and one (media.netpr.pl) even as far away as Poland, faithfully reproduce, word for word, the DEFRA version. Yet Judge Onions had said he would be writing to Kerr Wilson, the Chief Executive of the Pesticides Safety Directorate, asking why the prosecution had been brought and what lessons PSD and Defra had learned from the case. And he said he expected an answer within 21 days.
Department for Environment, Food And Rural
Affairs (National) Extract
"......The UK licensing system for pesticides reflects European regulations and
guidelines which are operated in a similar way by regulatory authorities
throughout Europe. They are an essential safety measure designed to protect the
public, pesticide users and the environment from potentially hazardous products.
PSD urges farmers to ensure that the products they purchase are approved for
use in the UK as part of their good agricultural practice. Failure to do so in
addition to any possible prosecution offence may mean losing part of their
Single Farm Payment under Cross Compliance rules.
Mr Rawlings was given 2 year conditional discharges for the offences and was
ordered to pay prosecution costs of £8500 in addition to his own legal costs
(estimated by his barrister to be £60,000).
PSD will not hesitate to pursue appropriate enforcement action against anyone
who stores, supplies or uses illegal pesticides. The controls on pesticides are
primarily there to protect consumers, users and the environment. Deliberately
ignoring these undermines this protection and also places legitimate importers,
farmers and agrochemical companies that do comply with the legislation at a
competitive disadvantage. .."
The DEFRA version of the case is reproduced by a number of sources, including even www.farminguk.com