Bully for Boxy as he wins death reprieve ... for now

Kate McNeil with Hallmark Boxster a British Blonde bull  on 'death row' due to TB.

Kate McNeil with Hallmark Boxster a British Blonde bull on 'death row' due to TB.

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Boxy the prize-winning bull was given a reprieve from a death sentence by a High Court judge.

The “much-loved” pedigree animal, full name Hallmark Boxter, had faced being destroyed after testing positive for bovine TB.

But Ken Jackson, of Forlorn Hope Farm, near Doncaster, and his daughter Kate McNeil dispute the validity of the TB test that condemned their “unique and irreplaceable” showground champion.

They want a retest and are offering to pay for it themselves.

A positive blood sample was taken from the bull in April last year and officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - Defra - issued notices of intended slaughter, leading to the legal battle to save Boxy’s life.

Mr Jackson, whose farm is at Stubbs Walden, near Askern, named after an old battle site, argues that the officers who took the sample mixed two half-full vials in the field, contrary to written procedures.

Julie Anderson, appearing for Defra, argued the bull poses a dangerous threat of spreading bovine TB and must be destroyed.

She submitted that there was “no evidence whatsoever” that the positive blood sample had been contaminated. But at the High Court in London Mr Justice McCombe granted Boxy a reprieve.

Mr Justice McCombe quashed the notices of intended slaughter, ruling that the test taken in relation to Boxy was flawed. The matter will have to be looked at again in the light of his judgment.

He refused Defra permission to appeal, but the department could still make an application directly to the Court of Appeal in a bid to take the case further.

The judge, in rejecting the appeal application, said that it was “really a case about one animal” and the problem had been caused by “making a policy mountain out of what was a farm molehill”.

He added: “I do not think further litigation should be encouraged.”

On the question of costs Daniel Stilitz QC, for the claimants, said the Jacksons “are not wealthy people” and the case had cost them £28,000.

The judge ordered the defendant to pay £15,000 on account within 14 days. A Defra spokesman said: “We are disappointed by this judgment and will carefully consider its implications and our next steps, including whether to appeal. The judgment does not, however, undermine our comprehensive TB-testing regime for cattle.”

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