|At noon, with TV vans following in her wake, she was on
her way to petition the High Court for a new hearing. This was granted
and a court date set for the following Tuesday. An appeal lodged by MAFF
against this second hearing was summarily dismissed by the judge.
That weekend and Monday, Wilson and her supporters spent hours putting together evidence for the case. It was no longer simply an isolated action involving a woman trying to save her animals – the policy of the contiguous cull itself was being put on trial.
Monday evening, with just hours to go until the hearing, Ross Finnie, the Scottish Executive's minister for rural affairs, issued a statement declaring that he was ordering an end to the automatic slaughter of animals within three kilometers of an infected premise. Moreover, in future cases, people affected would be granted a hearing.
"We worked over this all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and on Monday night the Scottish Executive changed their policy," Wilson said. "But they only changed it because they knew we were going to win. They couldn't have withstood the evidence. They knew we had experts [on foot-and-mouth] here from Holland; we had epidemiologists, biologists – the whole shooting match. Everybody jumped for it because they knew it was a big one to go for."
James Strang, Wilson's mysterious adviser who phoned her that Thursday evening and prepared the affidavit, discussed the strategy with WorldNetDaily. Strang is studying to be a solicitor and works at a law firm. His special area of expertise is human-rights law.
"Basically, the affidavit put both MAFF and the chief constable of Dumfries on notice that the killing of the animals would be unlawful," he explained. "As far as the chief constable was concerned, we were putting him on notice that if he assisted MAFF he would be assisting in an unlawful act. He could also be liable for conspiracy, because conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more persons to carry out an unlawful act."
Strang contends that under the recently passed Human Rights Act it is unlawful for a public authority to act or to fail to act in any way that's incompatible with any of the rights governed by the European Convention on Human Rights. And the Scotland Act (also a recent statute) says a member of the Scottish Executive has no power to do or fail to do any act that is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The proposed cull would have violated certain rights under the European Convention on Human Rights – specifically, under Article 8, a person has a right to respect for private and family life, while Article 6, paragraph 1, says a person is entitled to a fair hearing before an independent impartial tribunal in the determination of both civil rights and obligations. A citizen threatened with an infringement of private life or the destruction of possessions by the government has a right to a hearing in open court where the "lawfulness and proportionality" of the government's intentions can be ruled on after all relevant evidence is heard and before those intentions are carried out
"So one of the arguments in Juanita's case was that she was being denied her right to a hearing," Strang explained. "There was no real hearing. What MAFF had in place was a blanket policy, and a blanket policy cannot satisfy the right to a hearing before an independent, impartial tribunal because it can't take into account the particular facts and circumstances of the individual case."
He said the affidavit was served on the various parties, but Juanita had a copy, so when MAFF turned up at her premises "she stuck it under their noses, putting them on alert that what they were doing was unlawful."
That was part one of a two-part offensive.
At 6 a.m., while Wilson was facing down MAFF officials with her affidavit, Strang was on the phone rousting a clerk of the High Court in Edinburgh from his bed to file an interim interdict – a temporary injunction to stop the action.
"This meant that the case was again a live case before the courts, and that until such a time as a determination had been made by the court it would be unlawful to carry out the culling of the animals," said Strang.
The police and MAFF had withdrawn, but not only because Wilson waved an affidavit and said what they were doing was somehow unlawful. It required the extra kick of there being a new hearing in the offing.
As Strang sees it, "The major factor in their withdrawing was the fact that the case was now subject to new court proceedings. This meant it would be unlawful for them to carry out any act whilst the court proceedings remained to be determined."
Then came the last-minute capitulation Monday evening, and it appeared MAFF had thrown in the towel. But in evaluating the action, Strang feels it was not a complete victory, as there is nothing to prevent the government at any time from reversing its present policy.
"The night before they were due to go back to court, the Scottish Executive released a statement saying they were changing their policy on culling and replacing it with a policy of giving people a hearing," he said, "but they did that of their own volition, not by order of the courts, which means they can withdraw from that policy of their own volition at any time because so far there has not been a decision of the courts."
Strang said that any change of policy would have to be announced and that it would be well for those likely to be affected – farmers, pet owners and owners of animal refuges like Wilson – to develop an action plan in case that happens.
Wilson agrees with his evaluation. "I was pleased at the time, but retrospectively I'm not at all pleased, because I would have liked to have gone to trial," she said.
Without such a trial, such issues as the legality and alleged necessity for the contiguous cull remain unresolved.
Considering that Food and Farming Minister Lord Whitty and Animal Health Minister Elliot Morley, MP for Scunthorpe, North Yorkshire, have stated repeatedly that they would not hesitate to invoke emergency powers to reinstate the contiguous cull policy if foot-and-mouth breaks out again, it remains a matter of continuing concern for anyone who owns animals.
That's the reason Wilson encouraged Kirstin McBride – heartened by the judge's statement at the young woman's trial that the government seemed to have acted illegally – to pursue a civil action against those responsible for killing Misty, the goat.
Though the costs for McBride and her family would have been prohibitive, being part of a newly filed group lawsuit makes it possible. Wilson has started a dedicated fund for her legal expenses. She may be contacted through the Mossburn.org website.
"[Court] actions like this must be pursued," she said. "Our government has sold the people of this country, the rural people of this country, down the river. We've got to show them up for what they are."
Since the standoff, a number of policemen have apologized to her for the part they were required to play that morning. "They've told me they were annoyed, or ashamed, at what they had to do – that they were taken away from their lawful, usual business to come out and block all surrounding roads leading to Mossburn so that three sheep and 14 goats could be killed," she said.
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Sarah Foster is a staff reporter for WorldNetDaily.