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Saturday, 19 April 2014

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Mart manager had fake veterinary medicine, court told

An auction mart manager has been fined £2,000 after she admitted possessing a “potentially” lethal fake veterinary medicine.

Ruth Elizabeth Bell – known as Libby – admitted possessing 19 sealed bottles of the counterfeit Micotil, a veterinary antibiotic.

Officials from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra) have warned that the medicine could pose a danger to human health if animals treated with it end up in the food chain.

Bell, 42, of Nether Welton, near Carlisle, admitted a single charge of possessing an unauthorised veterinary medical product on a date in November 2011.

Newton Aycliffe magistrates heard how she had twice offered her resignation to her bosses at the St John’s Chapel Auction Mart in Barnard Castle but they refused, praising her “integrity and professionalism” and crediting her with helping to turn around the fortunes of the business.

They accepted her explanation that it had been a “one-off”.

The court was told how the offence came to light after Defra officials were tipped off about Bell having the medicine.

A prescribed antibiotic, Micotil is usually given as a treatment for pneumonia and other illness in cattle and sheep. It should only ever by given by vet.

Its use involves a “withdrawal period” before slaughter – something that potentially could be overlooked if it is given by a farmer. This is to ensure it does not end up contaminating meat.

Tests showed that the medicine found in the defendant’s car were a counterfeit version of Micotil, containing differing levels of the main ingredient Tilmicosin, potentially fatal to both humans and animals.

he presiding magistrate told Bell the court had considered jailing her in the light of the danger the product posed.

As well as the £2,000 fine, Bell was told to pay a £200 victim surcharge and £85 prosecution costs.

Speaking to the News & Star, Bell said: “I regret what happened. It was a stupid mistake, but I held my hands up and it will never happen again.”

She has worked for the Barnard Castle auction mart for five-and-a-half years.

A Defra spokeswoman said that the original tip-off about Bell suggested she was “selling and supplying a product purporting to be Micotil at the auction premises”.

But officials stressed that they did not see her sell or supply the product, and hence sought to pursue only the offence of possession of an unauthorised veterinary medicine.

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