Police shortfall leads to trade challenge

THE ISSUE of live animal shipments is to return to the High Court again. After the recent ruling that port and airport authorities have no legal right to ban such shipments because of fears over the action of demonstrators, exports have been resumed.

But a new legal twist has emerged in the saga. It is not the authorities which are to have their actions questioned in court but the police.

International Traders Ferry (ITF) has won leave to seek urgent judicial review of

restrictions imposed on policing the shipment of live animals through the south coast port of Shoreham. Because of the strain placed on police resources, West Sussex Chief Constable Paul Whitehouse has restricted policing to two consecutive days a week or four consecutive days a fortnight.

However, prior to granting leave for judicial review of this decision on the grounds that ITF has an "arguable case", Mr Justice Dyson was told by counsel Peter Roth that the Chief Constable's decision was causing loss of trade and the situation was becoming critical.

It will be argued when the case is fully heard that this amounts to an unjustified

restriction of trade which is in breach of both European and UK law. The police, who did not oppose the application for a challenge, have admitted the case raises questions of "constitutional importance".

As a taste of the argument to come, probably at the end of June, Roth told the court the

restriction on policing had led to an extraordinary situation under which one lorry driver had been stopped on his way to the port and warned if he proceeded he would be arrested because there were large numbers of demonstrators at the entrance to the harbour creating an unlawful obstruction.

Roth said there was the possibility that the firm would

return to court and seek an interim injunction against the police pending the full hearing.

A claim by the company for damages from the police has been adjourned pending the outcome of the judicial review.