Lawyer questions FSA’s role as prosecutor
A lawyer specialising in food-industry regulation has questioned whether the Food Standards Agency (FSA) should surrender prosecution powers.
Addressing the AIMS conference, Jamie Foster, partner at Clarke Willmott Lawyers, said: “The dual role of prosecuting and investigating has
never worked well, which is why it was
taken away from police and given to
the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
” Foster maintained that if a body spends a long time investigating a case, it is more likely to push for prosecution. “Isn’t it time the CPS took on the mantle of prosecutor to the meat industry?” he asked.
He listed three examples of cases where the FSA was heavy handed and pursued unnecessary prosecutions, including one in which the court found the FSA had abused the legal process by bringing proceedings.
Another case related to the FSA’s cause-for-concern list, and led to the withdrawal of approval for a plant, which could not be named because the case is currently with the high court. Foster said the cause-for-concern list was originally developed to ensure remedial action, but had become “a public washing of dirty laundry”.
In response, FSA chair Lord Rooker said that the FSA is not “judge and jury” in many cases and pointed out that it uses police officers in many of its investigations. Defending the FSA’s decision to publish audits, he said he expected the media to lose interest quickly. “If we are open and transparent, there will be nothing for the media to pick up on. It will quickly become the norm, and there won’t be big headlines,” he said. Rooker added that if there are any serious concerns over the consistency of audits, plant operators should raise them with the FSA.