The Rural Payments Agency (“RPA”) and Judicial Review

There has been an increase in the number of inspections carried out by the RPA, resulting in an increased number of alleged overclaims and the imposition of penalties by the RPA which many view as disproportionate.

In 2005, when the Single Payment Scheme was introduced by the RPA each applicant was required to make a number of declarations including:

  • The total agricultural area comprised in its holdings
  • The area of eligible land that the applicant would be using to establish entitlements
  • The area of eligible land over which payment was claimed for 2005.

Applicants tend to repeat the final declaration for each year which has resulted in discrepancies being repeated annually due to oversights by the applicants who should have updated their declarations. As such, the Single Farm Payment (“SFP”) is being calculated erroneously. Following periodic inspections by the RPA, penalties are being imposed depending on the level of the discrepancy in the sum paid and interest is being charged on the repayment sum.

There are two methods to appeal the RPA decision to take away SFP, either internally through the RPA, or via a judicial review.

Judicial Review – this is the procedure whereby the courts examine the decisions of public bodies in order to ensure that they act lawfully and fairly. Public bodies are under an obligation to apply good standards of public administration. Judicial review may be a valuable tool in the context of any dispute with the RPA. It must be noted that an application for permission to apply for judicial review is to be made promptly, and in any event, within three months from the date when the grounds for an application first arose.