Q: My brother, who is a farmer, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown because the Environment Agency is bringing a prosecution against him for slurry pollution which he was completely unaware of.
He has always abided by their rules even though he has often struggled to meet the necessary compliance costs. However they say he has breached the regulations on this occasion, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and therefore basically he must be punished. They have also accused him of being hostile when he argued that he didn’t know about the breach. Is it worth us getting him a good solicitor or will the Court simply side with the Environment Agency?
A: It most certainly is worth your brother seeking advice from a local solicitor who is well experienced in dealing with this type of prosecution. We have seen a considerable increase in environment agency prosecutions in the past couple of years, many of them against farmers who are struggling to comply with regulations because of the financial pressures they are under.
Whilst most farmers (and other business owners) comply with the law, logs from both the Environment Agency and Natural Resource Wales show there are farms marked as “hostile” and unfortunately this does not help those cases where a breach of the regulations is as a result of genuine ignorance.
It would without doubt be preferable for your brother to be represented by a solicitor. Whilst the Environment Agency may say they have evidence that warrants a prosecution, the burden of proof lies firmly on their shoulders and there is always a case to be argued. The argument should however be put forward by someone who knows exactly how to handle it and who is also acting firmly on your brother’s side.
Article July 2019