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Agriculture news, Trading Standards prosecutions

Somerset farmer fined for breaching animal ban

Posted on: 2 June 2020

A Somerset farmer has been ordered to pay over £10,000 after being found guilty of breaching an order banning him from keeping animals.

At Taunton Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 26 May, Brian Churches, 59, from Yew Tree Farm, Rodney Stoke, Cheddar, was found guilty of breaching a disqualification order under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Churches, who pled not guilty to keeping animals but pled guilty to failing to appropriately store the carcase of a dead bovine, was banned in May 2019 from owning and keeping animals, after a previous prosecution.

The court heard that although much his stock had been sold, an investigation by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards Service found that Churches continued to keep and trade in cattle.

A two-day trial started in March 2020 but was suspended as a result of coronavirus restrictions after one day and could only recommence this week.

On Tuesday District Judge Taylor found him guilty of three charges of breaching his order and that the prosecution had ‘proved his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt’.

He described Churches as someone who had been involved in farming all his life and was very experienced in agriculture.

He concluded that Churches was owner of the cattle and ultimately responsible.

Judge Taylor found Churches to have no lack of capacity and that he was perfectly able to make decisions and that he went beyond participating in the keeping of the cattle.

He warned Churches that another conviction could lead to a custodial sentence.

Churches accepted during the trial that he had been in breach of his disqualification on at least one occasion and that he ‘knew what had to be done but couldn’t do it as it was a lot of work’.

Mr Churches was fined £500 on each of the four offences and ordered to pay costs of £8,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.

Stephen Gardiner, Devon, Somerset, and Torbay Trading Standards Service’s Legal Process Manager, said: “Our officers worked very hard to persuade Mr Churches of the need to dispose of his animals and help him to do so, drawing up action plans for him to follow which he consistently ignored. His reluctance and continued poor farming practices meant we had to take this action.”