Case law: SPS decision quashed as judge finds no evidence that an act or omission attributable to Stody Estate caused breach

1st May 2018

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Christopher Shaw

A decision regarding the single farm payment scheme (SPS) has been quashed in the case of Stody Estate Ltd v Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs v National Farmers’ Union.

Certain eligibility criteria must be met for farmers to receive payments under the scheme, one of which is conserving wildlife and keeping the land in good agricultural and environmental condition. Payments may be reduced or stopped if the criteria are not met.

The claimant, Stody Estate, employed a gamekeeper who was convicted of poisoning birds on the estate. The Rural Payments Agency notified the claimant that they were held “vicariously liable” for the gamekeeper’s actions and their payments would therefore be reduced by 75%.

After an appeal to the Independent Agricultural Appeals Panel, the reduction was recommended to be set at 20%. That recommendation was referred to the Secretary of State, who considered the actions of the gamekeeper to be “within the scope of his employment”. A reduction to the annual payment was revised from 75% to 55%.

Mrs Justice May DBE quashed that decision on the lack of evidence that “the result of an act or omission directly attributable to the farmer” caused the breach to the SPS.

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