September 19, 2023

Stormont Agriculture Department details bill so far in whistleblower vet case

A Stormont department’s expenses in a failed legal battle with a whistleblower vet reached around £277,000 with additional costs to count.

Dr Tamara Bronckaers has received a £1.25million payout in a high-profile employment case against the Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera).

Last year, an employment tribunal found that the senior vet, who had raised concerns about animal welfare and meat traceability, had been constructively dismissed.

Read more:‘I wouldn’t call it a win,’ says vet paid £1.25million after unfair dismissal over animal welfare and traceability concerns

The department dropped an appeal against the decision last month and Dr Bronckaers received an unqualified apology.

His lawyers had described the payment as the largest of its kind ever granted in Northern Ireland.

However, court costs are still accrued by the department as a result of the case.

Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots detailed his department’s spending in response to a question from the Assembly by SDLP MP Patsy McGlone.

The DUP Minister said: “Total legal expenses on the labor court case between my department and Dr. Tamara Bronckaers has not been finalized at this stage as there are outstanding bills and legal work is ongoing. is continuing on the case because he has not been discharged.

“The latest cost estimate to the end of April 2022 is around £277,000. This covers the Employment Tribunal and the Court of Appeal case.

“Furthermore, the employment tribunal settlement to Dr Bronckaers of £1,250,000 included an amount for the plaintiff’s legal costs.”

Dr Bronckaers, who worked for the department’s veterinary services animal health group, had raised concerns about serious breaches of animal welfare legislation.

She also pointed to traceability issues within the meat supply chain related to the removal of records on the movement of cattle sold between farms.

The senior vet quit after claiming management ignored her concerns and subjected her to unfair treatment for reporting the issues.

Daera commissioned PwC to conduct an independent external review of the department’s handling of the issues raised by Dr Bronckaers.

Last month Dr Bronckaers said the past few years had been “extremely trying for me and my family”.

She said the outcome of the case had been “a long time in coming”, but added: “I can move forward knowing that I did what was right”.

“I have witnessed first hand animals suffering unnecessarily and I believe that over a period of five years over 20,000 animals were involved in suppressed movements which would have had significant implications for traceability within the supply chain,” she said.

“I strongly believed that the ministry was failing in its duty to protect animal welfare and therefore I could not continue to do work that I was not authorized to do ethically.

“I couldn’t sit and watch these violations persist.”

Read more:‘I wouldn’t call it a win,’ says vet paid £1.25million after unfair dismissal over animal welfare and traceability concerns

Read more:Former DAERA worker Dr Tamara Bronckaers has received a £1.25m payout and an apology

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