Prosecutions may be abandoned because of legal defect

THE State faces an avalanche of compensation claims from people convicted over the use of angel dust, the banned animal growth promoter.

People found guilty of related offences — including some who were jailed — may have their convictions overturned because of a legislative flaw.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled a government minister has no power to make amended regulations under the Animal Remedies Act 1993 to give effect to EU Council directives.

In her written judgment, Mrs Justice Susan Denham said the absence of a constitutional power in the 1993 Act might have been a policy decision of the Oireachtas or an oversight in drafting. The court’s unanimous judgment specifically related to an appeal by two pharmacists and a horse breeder against the Department of Agriculture.

The three people had been charged with offences under amended regulations. But the court ruled the minister did not have the necessary constitutional power to do so. Because of the legal defect hundreds of prosecutions in other cases, frozen pending the outcome of the latest ruling, may have to be abandoned. People previously found guilty of offences under the Animal Remedies Act 1993 may move to have their convictions overturned and to claim consequential compensation from the State.

A bill is before the Oireachtas designed to close the loophole.