The UKSC in Highbury Poultry Farm. On mens rea and EU law.

I am a bit late with a post as a follow-up to my Tweet, below, re the Supreme Court’s judgment in Highbury Poultry Farm Produce Ltd, R (on the application of) v Crown Prosecution Service [2020] UKSC 39. Thankfully, the judgment is of more than fleeting relevance. It is also a good example of the structured approach to legal argument, its discussion in scholarship and its engagement with the parties’ legal arguments which will be missed post Brexit.

A poultry slaughterhouse was being accused of breaching Regulation 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing – the same Regulation at stake in the CJEU Shechita proceedings.

Core issue in the case is whether the EU law at issue implies a requirement for mens rea (criminal intent) in the ability for Member States to discipline its breach. If no means rea is required, the law is one of strict liability.

At 14 Lord Burrows makes the point that the Regulation at issue left it to the Member States to determine the sanctions rolled-out by national law to ensure compliance with the Regulation. Had a Member State decided to deploy civil sanctions only, that would have been fine: criminal law enforcement was not necessary. What follows is a good summary of the authority on means of UK and EU statutory interpretation, with in the case at issue particular emphasis on the impact of recitals: at 51: an unclear recital does not override a clear article.

Conclusion after consideration of the Regulation (the only stain on the analysis being the lack of linguistic input (a fleeting reference at 32 only), given the CILFIT authority on equal authenticity)): that all animals which have been stunned must be bled by incising at least one of the carotid arteries or the vessels from which they arise, is formulated by the Regulation as an obligation of strict liability under EU law. Hence its effet utile requires that Member States that opt for enforcing it via criminal law, employ strict liability in that enforcement.

Reference to the CJEU was neither sought nor seriously contemplated.

Geert.

 

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