Eighteen dairy farmers charged with using an unlicensed employment agency to recruit staff have seen their case adjourned until next year.

The farmers are some of the biggest names in British dairying – including NFU vice-president Gwyn Jones.

Mr Jones was among the farmers attending a hearing at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Thursday (27 October).

All are accused of using an unlicensed labour provider to recruit dairy workers for their farms.

All have pleaded not guilty, with the exception of Reading University, which is yet to enter a plea.

The case is being brought by DEFRA following a lengthy investigation by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.

Six of the 18 farmers will now have their cases heard next March.

Their cases were selected in the hope that they will best reveal the issues faced by the other defendants.

The six are:

• Gareth H Rogers – Higher Tredrewen Farm, Tredrewen Lane, Llandrinio, Llanymynech, Powys.

• Stephen James Riding – Bonsdale Farm, Blyton Road, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire.

• Charles Robin Dawson – Wrenbury, Nantwich, Cheshire.

• Moss and Son Ltd – Hurst Farm, Tyndlae Road, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.

• Allan Ralph Miller – Blackwater Farm, West Bourton, Gillingham, Dorset.

• Reading University – Hall Farm, Church Lane, Reading.

This was the fourth court hearing in relation to the case.

District judge Simon Cooper expressed disappointment that the matter was taking so long.

“I am very concerned to get a solid timetable for this,” he told the court.

District judge Cooper had suggested setting up a special court to hear the cases in December.

But that proved too difficult and the cases will now be heard in March 2012.

The remaining 12 farmers, who face a later court hearing, are:

• B.J. Stainer and Sons Unlimited – Whitley Brow, Top Lane, Melksham, Wiltshire.

• D. Goodwin and Sons – Hill House Farm, Lindfield, Haywards Heath, West Sussex.

• John Few – Ditchford Bank Farm, Hanbury, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.

• Martin Grove – Bytham Farm, Ogbourne St George, Marlborough, Wiltshire.

• Hickson Brothers Ltd – Winkland Oaks Farm, Sutton, Dover, Kent.

• Timothy David aka William Hosford – Bramblecombe House, Melcombe Bingham, Dorchester.

• Gwyn Jones – Crouchlands Farm, Kirdford, Billingshurst, West Sussex.

• Philip Robert Latham – Brook House, Chorley, Nantwich, Cheshire.

• Maple Durham Trust – Maple Durham Estate, Maple Durham, near Reading.

• Andrew Skelton – Easton Farm, Easton, Grantham, Lincolnshire.

• W. Maidment Ltd – Manor Farm, Wilcot, Pewsey, Wiltshire.

• Wills Brothers Ltd – Pawton Dairy, St Breock, Wadebridge, Cornwall.

Reporting restrictions prevent the labour provider from being named because it too faces ongoing legal proceedings.

A test case was run earlier this week. Watch our video of dairy farmer Brian Barnett.