Auctioneers fined £20k for breaking stock movement rules

Livestock auctioneers at Wooler livestock mart in Northumberland have been fined more than £20,000 for 45 breaches of animal movement rules.

Representatives for John Swan, which operates Wooler mart, appeared at Berwick upon Tweed Magistrates’ Court earlier this week where they pleaded guilty to 45 offences.

The prosecution was brought by Northumberland County Council’s trading standards service following an investigation into the company’s activities in the second half of 2008.

The offences relate to the mart itself and its two lairage fields. Six of the offences concerned breaches of the six-day standstill rule, 22 related to the company’s failure to record livestock movements in its holding registers, nine were for the failure to return sheep movement documents (AML1s) to the local authority, and eight were for the failure to notify the British Cattle Movement Service of the movement of cattle.

The Magistrates fined the company £23,800 and awarded full costs of £1841 to the council.

Victoria Barrington, head of public protection at Northumberland County Council, said: “The current requirements to keep full and accurate records of all livestock movements and to notify details to the authorities were introduced in the aftermath of two devastating disease outbreaks – BSE in the 1990s and foot-and-mouth in 2001.

“The six-day standstill also came into being at the same time with the aim of slowing down the movement of animals and hence the spread of animal disease. It is particularly disappointing that a business at the heart of the farming community should chose to flout the very rules designed to protect the whole agricultural industry from the ravages of disease in animals.

“The consequences of the company’s failures could have been catastrophic. These are serious offences and this case demonstrates that my officers will not hesitate to take firm action against those who disregard their legal duties. I hope that it will act as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to act in a similar way.”