Thanet District Council, which owns and operates the Port of Ramsgate, suspended live animal exports through the port on 13 September 2012 following an incident the previous day. The ban coincided with one of the busiest periods of the year for animal exports, as preparations were made for the festival of Eid al-Adha. The ban brought a halt to the shipping of livestock overseas and left exporters unable to meet substantial commitments to customers on the Continent.
The Claimants, three Dutch businesses, were granted interim relief by the High Court in October 2012 (see news item here), and then brought a claim for damages under the principle in Case C-479/93 Francovich v Republic of Italy. The Claimants argued that the ban was an unlawful restriction of trade, in contravention of relevant EU law: Article 35 TFEU and Regulation 2005/1 on the protection of animals during transport. They presented evidence of contingency plans and arrangements, made by both the transporters and the competent authority (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)) that had been put in place to protect the welfare of animals moving through the port and to deal with any emergencies.
Following a trial in the Chancery Division, Mr Justice Birss has held that Thanet is liable to the Claimants under the Francovich principle, and ordered an assessment of the resulting damages.He concluded that the ban was “a disproportionate decision reached in haste”, influenced by political considerations, and “a serious breach of a fundamental element of the EU Treaty” justifying the award of damages against Thanet.
The judgment is here.
Andrew Henshaw QC and Emily MacKenzie appeared at trial for the applicants, Barco De Vapor B.V., Onderwater Agneaux B.V. and Joint Carrier, instructed by Thomas Cooper.