Farmer wins retrial over sheep dip effects

The Times: Britain:July 13 1996

[One theory attributes BSE to organophosphate poisoning -- webmaster]

A FARMER who was jailed for 12 years for attempted murder won a retrial at the Court of Appeal yesterday because of new evidence that sheep-dip chemicals might have affected his mental state.

Lord Bingham of Cornhill, the Lord Chief Justice, ordered the retrial after finding that the conviction of Robert Billings, 60, of Warninglid, West Sussex, was unsafe. He said the jury at Lewes Crown Court in December 1994 had not had an opportunity to consider the new evidence.

Lord Bingham, sitting with Mr Justice Owen and Mr Justice Connell, turned down a request for bail and gave the prosecution 28 days in which to prefer new charges. The case could have implications for scores of other farmers who allege they have suffered from exposure to sheep dip and are considering claims for compensation from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Billings was found guilty of attempting to kill with a shotgun George Foster, a casual labourer. The court was told that Billings had been drinking heavily before the shooting and that he had a long history of alcohol abuse. Heather Hallett, counsel for Billings, said yesterday that recent research on possible poisoning by the organo-phosphate [OP] chemicals used in sheep dip had not available at the time.

The Appeal Court agreed to admit as evidence a report from Robert Davies, a consultant psychiatrist who has studied OP poisoning. Dr Davies argues that heavy drinking combined with OP poisoning could have induced an "uncontrollable rage".