Relief as Boxy the bull wins TB reprieve

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A farmer's daughter spoke of her relief today after a prize-winning bull was given a reprieve from a death sentence by a High Court judge.

Boxy, full name Hallmark Boxter, had faced being destroyed after testing positive for bovine TB.

But Ken Jackson, of Forlorn Hope Farm in South Yorkshire, and his daughter Kate McNeil challenged the validity of the TB test that condemned their "unique and irreplaceable" showground champion.

And at the High Court in London today 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.

Kate McNeil said she and her father were "absolutely delighted" by the ruling today and they waited to hear what the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) intended to do next.

She said: "We are just so happy, we feel we got justice today. We have taken it stage by stage and not looked too far forward. It has been a roller-coaster ride, we have had our ups and downs throughout. It is a relief to have got a positive outcome today.

"We still need to read the judgment in full but the judge ruled in our favour with regard to how the sample was taken. It was taken incorrectly. We now wait to see what decision Defra take. We hope it is one of common sense."

She described the bull as "my baby" who she often led around the showground for her father.

She went on to thank all their supporters, adding: "We have had so much support from the farming community and the general public and we have had a fantastic legal team. We have really appreciated the support.

"A friend told me it takes a rich man to have principles. It also takes a brave one and a strong one. We are strong and we are a strong family who have supported each other and stuck together."

A positive blood sample was taken from the bull in April last year and officials from Defra issued notices of intended slaughter, leading to the legal battle to save Boxy's life.

The family has never questioned Defra's policy towards bovine TB, just how the sample was taken in Boxy's case, and they are offering to pay for a retest themselves.

Mr Jackson, whose farm is at Stubbs Walden, north of Doncaster, argued that the officers who took the sample mixed two half-full vials in the field, contrary to written procedures.

The judge 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".

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 naturally 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."