Department yet to decide if it will appeal High Court judgement on farm inspection

The Department of Agriculture has yet to decide whether it will appeal a recent High Court judgement which saw a farmer awarded over €100,000 in lost Single Farm Payment.

The case centered around the lack of notice the farmer, Michael O’Connor, received for an inspection and the lack of a Control Report from the Department of Agriculture.

A spokesperson for the Department said that it is waiting for the High Court Order on the O’Connor case.

“The Department of Agriculture is currently examining the complex legal aspects of this case and is considering the position with regard to any appeal,” the spokesperson said.

O’Connor, from Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, was awarded his 2010 €124,431 Single Farm Payment, which he had lost out on receiving after getting a 100% penalty after the inspection. He was also awarded the majority of his legal costs.

However, a stay has been put on the payment to O’Connor as the Department is considering appealing the ruling.

In his judgement, Justice Michael White criticised that the Department of Agriculture failed to provide the farmer with a complete Control Report. The case, which took place in June, found that the Department of Agriculture’s Control Report did not contain the necessary documents as required under EU Law.

The ruling means that thousands of farmers, who have appeals to inspection decisions by the Department have failed, can now ask the Director of the Appeals Office for a review of their case as the Control Report in many of these cases may not now be valid.

A control report is a requirement under EU Regulation and a while number of documents together may form the final Control Report, in this instance, it was found that the Single Application Inspection Report Worksheet and the Final Notice did not have any of the requirements of a Control Report.

Significantly, a control report must be provided prior to any conclusions being drawn by the Department. Under the EU Regulations were any irregularities are found the farmer should be provided with a Control Report.