Dozens of farmers may have been wrongly convicted for making illegal cattle movements after it emerged DEFRA has been making prosecutions under the “wrong law” since August 2000.

The issue came to light after a farmer from North Wales had his conviction for illegally moving cattle thrown out when the government admitted it had been using the wrong law.

Mark Payne from Holywell, Flintshire, was prosecuted and convicted in March of 19 offences of contravening Cattle Identification and Cattle Database Regulations.

But the convictions were overturned after DEFRA’s lawyers admitted that the original EU law used by DEFRA had been repealed and that newer, more up-to-date legislation which was supposed to have replaced it had not yet been adopted by the UK.

Mark Payne’s solicitor, David Kirwan, said the decision would open the door to dozens of other farmers who had also been wrongly convicted.

“This case highlights how there is now so much legislation pouring into Britain from the EU that the British government has no idea where they are up to.

“The conviction imposed on Mr Payne almost drove him to breaking point,” added Mr Kirwan who is a partner at Merseyside law firm Kirwans.

DEFRA admitted in court that the offences for which Mark Payne had been convicted on 30 March were “not known to British law”.

The department went on to say that it had no idea that the replacement EU legislation had not been adopted in the UK.

Mr Kirwan said:

“Quite frankly, the events in court made a laughing stock of DEFRA.

It is inexcusable and makes you wonder what other potentially more serious issues are yet to be dicovered.

“Ministers should make sure they have their own house in order before they start prosecuting the hard-working farmers of this country, that’s for sure.”

Mr Payne, who is married with three young children, had been due to be sentenced at Prestatyn on Monday, 10 July.

He was preparing to fight all 19 convictions right up to the Crown Court because he had provided everything that DEFRA inspectors had asked him for when the case was thrown out, said Mr Kirwan.

jonathan.riley@rbi.co.uk