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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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North Cumbria farmer sentenced for flouting mad cow disease rules

A farmer who flouted regulations designed to prevent infected beef from getting into the human food chain has been given a suspended jail sentence and fines and costs of almost £10,000.

Related: North Cumbrian farmer broke mad cow disease regulations

Carlisle Crown Court heard that the crimes committed by David Holmes, 52, led to the disappearance of 33 cattle.

Many of the cows were born before 1996, meaning that they posed a potential risk to humans if they ever got into the food chain.

Infected meat has been blamed for causing most of the 170 deaths in the UK from the brain disease variant CJD, the human form of BSE, also known as mad cow disease.

Some of Holmes’ animals were at Crook Farm, Roadhead, north of Carlisle.

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Davies told the farmer: “I am satisfied that these offences were committed deliberately for commercial profit.” The judge said that it was imperative that diseased cattle were not provided for human consumption.

Holmes flouted the regulations, deliberately obstructing the authorities and failing to keep proper records.

As a result, 33 of the defendant’s cattle could not be traced, having been sold “at great risk to the public”, said Judge Davies, who added: “It was a cynical pattern of offending, without consideration for the public.”

The court heard there was no evidence that any infected meat had actually entered the human food chain.

At an earlier hearing, Holmes, now living at Nutholm Farm, Lockerbie, admitted 30 counts of contravening cattle identification and movement regulations. He repeatedly failed to notify the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) that he was moving cattle between different locations.

The offences included failing to keep a proper register of his herds, using an ear tag on a cow previously that identified another animal, and giving officials misleading information about his cows.

The offences were committed on a continuous basis between 2009 and 2011. They happened at the farm near Carlisle, and at others in Northumberland, Staffordshire, and Derbyshire.

Holmes has previous convictions which date back to the 1980s, including a number of animal cruelty offences.

The farmer’s barrister pointed out he had given up cattle dealing, and the company he ran for that purpose – D&A Livestock Limited – was in liquidation and would not be resurrected.

The judge said figures showed the defendant’s business generated just short of £143,000 in the last nine months, while his remaining cattle are valued at between £30,000 and £45,000, so there was no reason for Holmes not to pay costs.

The judge imposed a fine of £3,000 and prosecution costs of £6,600. Holmes will have to serve three months in jail if he fails to pay up.

In addition he was given a 12-month jail term, suspended for two years, and told to do 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

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