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Livestock Incidents Highlight Farmers' Responsibilities

Two events this week have led to the CLA issuing a reminder to farmers and horse owners of their legal responsibility to make sure that their animals do not escape onto a public highway.

In Yorkshire a farmer was held liable for the injuries to a motorcyclist who was injured in a collision with one of his cattle that had escaped from a field after someone had left open a gate. Lord Justice Potter ruled that the farmer was under a duty "to guard against the carelessness or malice of those who may leave the gate open" and found in favour of the motorcyclist despite the farmer's appeal.

In Lancashire a bull was shot dead by police marksmen after it caused chaos on the M55, causing the motorway to be closed for 45 minutes. In this case there were thankfully no injuries.
The CLA says that the law has never been clearer: farmers are solely responsible for making sure that livestock do not escape onto public highways.

Sue Harrison, CLA's Deputy Regional Director NW says: "To be held liable for accidental or malicious release of your stock may seem unfair but that is the law. This seems an appropriate time to urge farmers and horse owners to check their field security now, and to assess the likelihood of their animals escaping onto a road. If there is no right of way onto a field you should keep all gates locked and in good condition, and check that all roadside fences are stock-proof.

"Where a right of way crosses from a field to a highway the situation is more complex. If you believe that an animal could escape through a gate if it was left open, then you need to take advice. If you have any concerns whatsoever, I would urge you to contact the local authority urgently, who should advise on an appropriate solution and, in certain circumstances, may provide the correct type of access for you."

"If your land has been mapped as Open Access land make sure all roadside gates are locked now. The Access Authority will then need to provide a new means of access and they have to consider land management in where it is located, including such issues as being stock proof.

"Finally, you should make sure that your public liability insurance is up to date and is sufficient to cover today's increasing levels of compensation claims"

Mrs Harrison concludes: "This is very important. If you do not act you may be liable for a considerable compensation settlement, or perhaps even worse, injury or death of a passing motorist."

The CLA also reminds members that advice is available through its own team of professional advisers.


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