Doubts over BSE payouts

Agricultural litigation lawyers say farmers and slaughterhouses are satisfied with the Government's BSE compensation package but that less obvious victims of the crisis have been ignored.

The package, announced last week, promises around £500 compensation for every animal over 30 months old which is slaughtered, with supplements available for specialist herds and cash help for slaughterhouses.

Nigel Davis, a member of agricultural law group Agrilaw, was inundated with calls from clients as soon as the compensation package was announced.

Davis, partner at the Birmingham firm Shakespeares, said: “It is hard to say what the compensation package will mean without reading the small print. Whatever it means, it needs to be implemented quickly before the situation gets worse.”

Margo Stephens, of Glasgow firm McGrigor Donald and chair of the BSE consortium, a legal group set up in response to the crisis, said that the Government's package was not far reaching enough.

“The EU ban has meant that farmers have had to feed extra cattle which they would have otherwise sold,” he said.

“Restaurants and schools which have had to destroy beef stores are just one example of the way the crisis has affected people.”

The legal implications of the BSE crisis have been enormous. Lawyers have been involved in exploring possible courses of action against the Government, in the prosecution of farmers selling cows from BSE herds and in reorganising businesses and overseeing insolvencies.

Last week the legal arm of the National Farmers Union began judicial review proceedings against the Government and the EC and the Government announced its decision to take the EC to court over its ban on British beef.

Manchester firm Slater Heelis has appointed its first tax partner in a recent wave of internal promotions which adds three new partners and four associates to the office.

The firm now has 21 partners, including taxation lawyer Peter Townsend (right). Jeff Middleton (left) and Mark Amsden (centre), who is also qualified in Australia, are joining the litigation department as partners.

Middleton will specialise in employment law and Amsden in commercial litigation.

Appointed as associates are PI specialist Adrienne de Vos, housing association adviser Mike Gaskell, and property lawyers Steve Peel and Nancy Brown.