The Badger Trust has won its case against DEFRA, which failed to justify the withholding of key badger culling documents to the High Court.

The Upper Tribunal held yesterday (July 31) that it was “not persuaded” by DEFRA’s justifications for withholding vital badger culling policy documents.

After two days of evidence and submissions at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, the tribunal indicated it was unconvinced by any of DEFRA’s public interest arguments to justify the withholding of risk and issue logs (RILs).

In May 2012, the animal charity requested documents relating to the controversial cull. Unknown to the Badger Trust, these documents revealed the involvement of the National Farmer’s Union (NFU) on a secret project board set up to explore aspects of the Government’s policy.

In June 2013, the information commissioner demanded DEFRA disclose the RILs – finding the public interest test favoured disclosure.

Jeff Hayden, financial director and the trust’s lead on judicial challenge, who attended the two-day hearing, said: “The Badger Trust was unremitting and determined in challenging DEFRA’s refusal and today’s finding is a complete vindication for all its hard work.

Our legal advisors, Bindmans LLP, have again proved an invaluable partner in our battle to protect badgers. “We deeply regret that we have been unable to save the 1,861 slaughtered in the 2013 trials.”

Dominic Dyer, chief executive of the Badger Trust and policy adviser for Care for the Wild, said: “This is another important step forward in the Badger Trust’s on-going legal challenge to show it is cattle, not badgers, that are at the root of the spread of bovine TB.

“Although the written judgment is awaited, the tribunal chairman Justice Charles made it quite clear DEFRA had not been justified in withholding these documents from the Badger Trust in 2012.”

Full judgment will be handed down in due course. There will also be a further hearing around late October 2014 to address important wider issues to clarify the legal exceptions relied on by DEFRA to keep the board’s assessment of the risks under wraps.

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