Farming Life is highlighting the work of staff in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
This week we focus on Danny Gray, a Deputy Principal in DARD’s Veterinary Service Enforcement Branch based at Loughry Campus, Cookstown.
What is your current role in DARD?
I work as a Deputy Principal in Veterinary Service Enforcement Branch (VSEB). My duties include, amongst other things, management of VSEB. My team carry out inspections and investigations to maximise compliance with animal health and welfare and veterinary public health legislation, in line with the Department’s Enforcement Policy.
Another key aspect of my job is providing enforcement advice to the DARD Minister, officials and a wide range of stakeholders.
In the past two years I have been particularly involved in assisting the PSNI tackle the ongoing problem of rural crime. While investigating livestock theft is the responsibility of the PSNI, VSEB assists the PSNI in a number of ways. For example, I represent DARD on the Rural Crime Partnership, this is a joint initiative between the Department of Justice, NFU Mutual, DARD and the PSNI.
I regularly attend multi-agency meetings with DHSSPS, HMRC, District Councils, the Special Investigation Unit in the South and an Garda Síochána, to share information and plan joint operations. VSEB staff also attend PSNI training days, this has proved very successful as many PSNI officers are not from farming backgrounds. VSEB share their skills on livestock identification and movement with the PSNI.
VSEB seeks to sustain the high levels of compliance already present in the agri-food industry. This will ensure the sector’s excellent reputation is maintained and not undermined by the actions of a few unscrupulous individuals. It also helps to ensure that Northern Ireland’s agriculture sector can continue to trade internationally and support the “Going for Growth” strategy’s export targets.
Outline your career to date
I joined the NI Civil Service in 1983 as an “Industrial” in the experimental unit at Greenmount.
Later the same year I started as a Group 1 Inspector in Derry. I moved to Dungannon DVO in 1992 as the Senior Animal Health and Welfare Inspector before moving permanently to enforcement in 1997. I have been in my current post from 2008.
Tell us about your qualifications and training
I hold qualifications in agriculture and law. I completed a LLB (Hon) law degree through the College of Law and the Open University, supported by DARD.
What qualities are required to do your job?
Effective communication is essential in my role. I routinely communicate with the legal profession including the PPS, the Departmental Solicitors Office (DSO) and prosecution and defence lawyers. I also regularly provide written or verbal briefing on a range of enforcement matters for the DARD Minister, other MLAs, senior officials or the Chair and Members of the Veterinary Service Board.
I represent DARD internationally at the Heads of Medicines Agencies Working Group of Enforcement Officers (WGEO). This diverse group from at least 20 member states is multi disciplinary, made up of lawyers, scientists, pharmacists police officers and enforcement officers. There is a “human” side and a “veterinary” side, I represent the veterinary group on the management committee.
Other agencies eg Europol and Interpol and other non EU observers also attend the meetings.
The process has improved my French language skills.
What are the biggest challenges and rewards of your work?
The world of animal health and welfare and veterinary public health is a complicated one with a myriad of EU and National legislation to deal with. It is certainly a challenge to keep on top of it but it also rewarding when we get a good result in a case which will act as a deterrent for others.