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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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North Cumbrian farmer admits breaking animal movement rules

A farmer whose evidence last week helped to convict a sheep rustler has himself been prosecuted – for flouting regulations designed to prevent the spread of animal diseases such as foot and mouth.

Danny Waring, who runs a 250-acre farm at Penton north of Carlisle, admitted 43 separate offences.

Magistrates in Carlisle imposed fines and costs of just over £6,000.

Jonathan Farnworth, prosecuting on behalf of Cumbria Trading Standards, outlined the three sets of offences admitted by the 43-year-old farmer and sheep trader.

“We all remember in Cumbria the impact of in 2001 of foot and mouth on the farming community and the economy as a whole,” Mr Farnworth told the court.

“Foot and mouth is a highly infectious disease which can spread very quickly and have a devastating impact.”

The lawyer said that between February and May of this year Waring was responsible for 36,000 sheep “movements” onto or off his farm, having bought the livestock from a variety of marts – many in Scotland.

All of the offences admitted by Waring related to his failure to abide by strict disease control regulations government animal movements. The first group of offences were breaches of so-called “standstill” rules, which mean that when new animals are brought on to a farm no livestock can leave that farm for at least six days. This is because it can take that long for foot and mouth symptoms to appear.

Waring admitted 19 offences which fell into this category, said Mr Farnworth.

The remaining offences related to Waring’s failure to adequately report animal movements to or from his farm and his failure to keep proper records of movements.

These offences came to light, said the lawyer, because Cumbrian auction marts routinely notify Trading Standards of what animals are sold.

“He has just not told the local authority about thousands of sheep which have arrived on his farm,” said Mr Farnworth. Most arrived over a 15-month period.

When challenged by officials, Waring admitted he had “bitten off more than he could chew” in his work.

Mr Farnworth stressed there had been no disease outbreak but the regulations were designed to pinpoint the source of outbreaks and trace animal movements should the worst happen.

Rosalind Scott Bell, for Waring, said he had continued his sheep trading business after taking over the running of his father’s farm 18 months ago.

It was then that the offences had begun.

“He simply took on too much,” said Mrs Scott Bell. “He felt it was more important to look after the welfare of the animals but he did not spend enough time on doing the paperwork which the law absolutely requires.

“This is not a man who deliberately set out to conceal or mislead.”

Waring at one point told Trading Standards he was behind with the paperwork but it was not their role to help him do that work.

Waring has now halved the scale of his sheep trading and no longer buys from marts in Scotland, she said.

Magistrates imposed fines of £3,010, costs of £3,000 and a £15 victim surcharge.

The News & Star last week reported how Robert Birnie, 47, of Sunny Rigg Farm, Moat, near Longtown, was found guilty of witness intimidation and stealing sheep belonging to Waring. Birnie will be sentenced next month.

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