The Department of Agriculture’s investigations division has a success rate in court of 90%, the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture heard this week.

Philip Carroll, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Agriculture told members that in the past five years, it has had 66 cases for prosecution and so far 44 of those cases were disposed of in the courts.

According to Carroll the success rate was 40, or 90%, with the remaining cases are still in the court system.

Carroll also told the committee that very few Department of Agriculture investigations ever go as far as the courts.

He said when one considers the number of investigations carried out annually, in the grand scheme of things very few involve difficulties.

“Many of them do not go beyond the point of a warning for somebody who has perhaps inadvertently done something wrong.

“There is no imputation on farmers generally. They are generally completely compliant with all of the legislation they have an obligation to be compliant with. There might be 140 cases a year, and over five years only 66 went to prosecution,” he said.

Carroll noted that the it has a huge compliance level.

“I do not know how one defines it in percentage terms but it is over 99%,” the Department of Agriculture man said.

The Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary also told the committee of the difficulty of the Department of Agriculture in getting the right staff for investigation roles.

Carroll said he felt it was important to call out the fact that this is a difficult unit to identify required skillsets, because one is looking for people with a legal understanding and a capacity to investigate, record information and to present that information in a form that is amenable to prosecution.

“It is hard to get such a skillset.

“I also wanted to bring to the committee’s attention the fact that this is difficult for them to do as well and, therefore, how difficult it is for us to man that team,” he said.