Success at high court for Georgina Downs



Environmental campaigner Georgina Downs won an amazing legal victory yesterday to great acclaim. Mr Justice Collins, the High Court judge ruled that Ms Downs had produced “solid evidence” that residents had suffered harm. He said the government had failed to comply with a European directive to protect rural residents.

Throughout her 7 year campaign ( Ms. Downs has continued to present considerable evidence to the Government, its regulators, (the Pesticides Safety Directorate) and main advisors, (the Advisory Committee on Pesticides) regarding the lack of any protection for residents from pesticides.

Georgina’s relentless work exposed the Government’s “inherent fundamental failure” to protect rural residents and communities from exposure to toxic pesticides sprayed near homes, schools, children playgrounds and other premises.


The High Court Judgment from Mr. Justice Collins is very clear in that the Government has been acting unlawfully in its policy and approach in relation to the use of pesticides in crop spraying, and that public health, in particular rural residents and communities exposed to pesticides from living in the locality to regularly sprayed fields, is not being protected (and this applies to both acute effects and chronic long term adverse health effects).

The Judgment states, “The alleged inadequacies of the model and the approach to authorisation and conditions of use have been scientifically justified. The claimant has produced cogent arguments and evidence to indicate that the approach does not adequately protect residents and so is in breach of the Directive.”

The Judgment also states, “It is important to bear in mind that operators and workers are not the only individuals who are exposed to pesticides and, while their protection is of course most important, they can benefit from the use of protective clothing and other measures not available to residents. Some individuals may be particularly vulnerable (for example, the asthmatic, the elderly, children, pregnant women), but they must be protected too.”


Georgina Downs, speaking outside the High Court said, “I am obviously very pleased with today’s result, and have been fully vindicated, as this case was based on a set of core arguments that I identified and have been presenting to the Government over the last 7 years. The fact that there has never been any assessment of the risks to health for the long-term exposure for those who live, work or go to school near pesticide sprayed fields is an absolute scandal considering that crop-spraying has been a predominant feature of agriculture for over 50 years. Under EU and UK law the absence of any risk assessment means that pesticides should never have been approved for use in the first place for spraying near homes, schools, children’s playgrounds and other public areas.”

Find out more

In 2003, Ms. Downs produced a DVD that featured individuals and families from all over the country reporting acute and chronic long-term illnesses and diseases in rural communities surrounded by sprayed fields. Acute effects include rashes, itching, sore throats, burning eyes, nose, blistering, headaches, nausea, stomach pains, burnt vocal chords, amongst other symptoms. The most common chronic long-term illnesses and diseases reported include various cancers, especially breast cancer among rural women, neurological conditions, including ME, asthma and many other medical conditions. However, Government officials and advisors dismissed the content of the DVD and have continually failed to act on any of the evidence produced by Ms. Downs. (see ITN clips of the original spraying demo)

Yet today’s Judgment concludes that Ms. Downs had produced “solid evidence that residents have suffered harm to their health”, particularly in relation to acute effects, and that “a different approach” should have been adopted and accordingly there has “been both a failure to have regard to material considerations and a failure to apply the [European] Directive properly.”

What will Gordon Brown do?

Ms. Downs called on the Prime Minister to intervene and stop his Government appealing against the court’s decision. She stated, “I would now suggest that the Prime Minister himself sees the evidence I have presented in my case first hand without being told by his advisors that there is nothing wrong…”


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2 Responses to “Success at high court for Georgina Downs”

  1. colin seymour Says:

    Well done. Your persistance, determination and legal skills are a credit to you and a example to any would be litigant-in-person who takes on the establishment. I write as someone said to be “the most successful litigant -in-person in English legal history”(see The Seymour Papers).
    The importance of your case far exceeds anything I ever accomplished in my 30 years of litigation.
    Thank you

  2. Bystanders and pesticides « Sheepdrove’s Weblog Says:

    […] Bystanders and pesticides By sheepdrove Following on from the Sheepdrove blog story on Geogina Downs’ success at the High Court. […]

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