High Court finds in favour of farmer over SPS fine.

Lincolnshire farmer, Peter Strawson, has won a High Court victory over the RPA for a £36,000 penalty for filling in a form incorrectly by mistake.

The case was bought agains the Rural Payments Agency and the Government by Lincolnshire law firm Bridge McFarland. 

When filling in his Single Farm Payment claim form for 2007 Mr Strawson inadvertently put the wrong start date on a claim for some land he had recently acquired.

"The mistake made no difference to the amount of his claim or to his total entitlement and he had nothing whatsoever to gain by inserting the incorrect date, a fact accepted by the RPA," said Mr Taylor for Bridge McFarland.  Nevertheless, after initially telling Mr Strawson that he could simply correct the mistake to allow the claim to go ahead, the RPA changed its mind and withheld a payment of £14,193.

The RPA also imposed a swinging penalty of more than £36,300.  Mr Strawson appealed under the RPA's appeals procedures, but was unsuccessful, even though the appeals panel noted that there was no question of fraud and that the penalty appeared out of all proportion to the error.

Bridge McFarland said the result would be welcomed by all farmers concerned that a small clerical error could land them with a penalty out of all proportion to the mistake.

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