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Cumbrian farm's failures 'could have led to spread of disease'

Cattle. Photo: PA

A Cumbrian farming business had been fined more than £50,000 for record keeping failures that could have led to the spread of disease in the county.

On Friday 8 May, Colin Dent and his wife Yvonne Dent of Bridge End farm, Kirkby Thore, Penrith, were sentenced at Carlisle Crown Court following an investigation by Trading Standards officers.

They had pleaded guilty on 8 April at the court to 10 specimen offences, asking for a further 613 related offences to be taken into consideration.

They were fined a total of £52,500, plus ordered to pay £7,500 in prosecution costs.

£52,500
The amount the couple were fined.
£7,500
The amount the couple were ordered to pay in costs.

Cumbria Trading Standards first found that the Dents had bought cattle from a herd disposal in West Cumbria which was subsequently confirmed as being badly infected with bovine TB.

Further investigations revealed they had failed to report the deaths of hundreds of cattle and keep correct records.

It also came to light that cattle the farm had said were dead, to the vet conducting the TB tests, were in fact alive and had not been tested.

The charges the Dents were found guilty of include:

  • One offence of breaching a notice by failing to TB test cattle (fined £2500)
  • Two offences of failing to ensure cattle which had died on farm were tested for BSE (fined 2x £5000)
  • Two offences of failing to record the deaths of cattle in the herd registers (fined 2x £5000)
  • One offence of failing to report a movement from the holding in the herd register (fined £5000)
  • Two offences of failing to report deaths of cattle to BCMS within 7 days (fined 2x £5000)
  • Two offences of failing to record the destination of carcases of cattle which had died on farm (fined 2x £5000)

In sentencing, the judge reduced the penalty by a third, after taking into consideration the fact the defendants had no previous history of failure, had co-operated with the authorities, and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity.

However, he also noted the devastation caused in Cumbria during the 2001 Foot and Mouth Disease epidemic, and the threat posed by TB.

The spread of disease can have a devastating impact on farmers and the rural economy. Although the fine may seem like a lot for one business, it is nothing compared to the potential cost to the local economy that the Dents were risking through their poor monitoring practices.

We recognise that the majority of farmers take their responsibilities seriously, but this sends a clear message to those who don’t that Trading Standards will thoroughly investigate and prosecute when necessary.”

– Phil Greenup, Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards Senior Manager