From 11th February to 14th February 2002 at the High Court in
London a group of activists attempted to force a Judicial Review which
would examine the legality of the government's refusal to hold a public
enquiry into the Foot and Mouth crisis. Unfortunately, their attempt
Alicia Eykyn of the FMD Forum was there, and this is her report....
"Oh dear, Oh dear I shall be late!" No, not the White Rabbit of
Alice's recollections but me arriving in the High Court, Royal Courts of
Justice, at the top of Fleet Street on Monday 11 February.
This was the first day of the Judicial Review, laid down for four
days, into our Government's decision not to have a Public Enquiry into
arguably the most dramatic happening since the Second World War.
Having enquired at the desk and been told Court 2, I arrived to find
to my surprise, the door firmly locked and the words 'in camera'
affixed. Looking round with clearly enough astonishment on my face, a
bewigged gent standing nearby, enquired which court I was after.
"Oh, Foot and Mouth", he stated, "That's next door!" and directed me
to a narrow winding stone staircase. Although relieved that the secrecy
madness had not completely taken over, I staggered round and ever
upwards. It did cross my mind that this could be a Defra plot for
interested parties like myself, to fall to their untimely deaths in the
manner planned by Uncle Ebenezer for his nephew in 'Kidnapped'.
Up in the Gods were a goodly collection, some I knew, some I
recognised and some were complete strangers.
There must have been at least 20 or 25 people. There was a bloke from
the NFU whose name escapes me. I sat next to Pat Dent and Julie Steele
from North Yorks/Cumbria, Pat
Innocent from the Forest of Dean, was there, and Robert Persey one
of the farmers instigating one of the 4 cases that were being heard at
the same time.
Except for those in the very front row, none had a view of the QC on
his feet -- and being able to hear what he said was clearly not part of
the intended proceedings!
In the afternoon I met William Neville who kindly informed me that
the public (ie. the likes of me) were allowed, subject to space, to be
in the well of the court so from then on that is where I went. Joshua
Rosenberg came and went, other members of the press were there but not
ones I recognised. Andrew Veitch dropped in on the Wednesday and asked
me how long it was going to last. I sat with Christopher Thomas Everard
until in desperation for not being able to hear, he went and plonked
himself down with the press. Liz Lowther put in a fleeting appearance.
Most of the incredibly creaky wooden benches were taken up with the 4
teams backing the 4 QCs struggling in the face of overwhelming
But even in the well of the Court, it was still extremely difficult
to hear all that was said.
This is the High Court. 'The Royal Courts of Justice'. The highest
Court in the land, other than the House of Lords, yet no proper
provision is made for the public to know what is going on in the form of
any paperwork and no-one is given the courtesy of being able to hear
However, we could all hear Lord Justice Simon Brown, and what was
really worrying at this early stage, was the seeming scorn with which he
parried any legal points that the poor unfortunate QC in front of him
was attempting to make.
In fact there were two judges, Lord Justice Simon Brown who was
apparently in charge and then, it seems, an also-ran -- Mr Justice Scott
The latter's role appeared to correspond to another character from
'Alice' - the dormouse at the Mad Hatter's tea party. Like him, from
time to time over the course of the four days Mr Justice Scott Baker
woke up and asked a question - some of these unscheduled interruptions
appearing to be a further annoyance to Lord Justice Simon Brown.
His Lordship's obsession with time was exasperating to the point of
rudeness. Despite being set down for four days, I cannot remember how
many times he asked the lawyers how much longer they thought they
needed. Thus, coolly, making it quite clear to the assembled audience,
that the whole thing was a foregone conclusion.
Instead of getting on and letting the QCs say what they needed to
say, much time was taken up in the proceedings, by His Lordship forcing
them to try and estimate how long they thought their submissions would
be likely to take.
Then, congratulating them in a jokey way, if they managed to hit the
target - like some light hearted party game. Not only did this slow
things down instead of the supposed purpose of speeding them up, but it
acted as a most effective disruptive measure to those presenting their
Had it been attempted by the opposition, one might have thought it an
infuriating but clever tactical move, and would have expected it to be
jumped on by any fair-minded judge.
Much of His Lordship's tone of voice when stating or querying a QC's
point, and some of his spur of the moment arguments and justifications
against their claims, would have made Mr Mugabe happy to employ him. His
yawning, innumerable and overt glances at the large clock on the
courtroom wall, and general body language exuded ill-manners and boredom
to all those present in the court. Any fleeting hope one might have had
that he just had an unfortunate manner, or was acting as Devil's
advocate and would treat the other side equally badly, was shattered
when the Attorney General got to his feet. The atmosphere from the Bench
then turned to one of obsequious cronyism.
Had I been one of those putting up thousands of hard earned pounds
for their cases to be heard fairly and properly, I am sure I would have
suffered considerable mental anguish watching that particular Judge and
his cohort in action.
As a mere spectator with no knowledge of the etiquette or
ramifications of the court I speak as I find. That is to say, I found it