The trials can go ahead of four dairy farmers accused of using the services of an unlicensed gangmaster, a judge has ruled.
The dairy farmers are among a group of 17 milk producers charged with employing workers through an unlicensed employment agency.
The four accused are:
- Allan Ralph Miller, of Blackwater Farm, West Bourton, Gillingham, Dorset
- Moss & Sons Ltd, Hurst Farm, Tynedale Road, Slimbridge, Gloucestershire
- Charles Robin Dawson, Wrenbury, Nantwich, Cheshire
- Stephen James Riding, Bonsdale Farm, Blyton Road, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire
They had argued that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority breached its own guidance when bringing charges following a wider investigation into the dairy sector.
Defence QC Adam Vaitlingham told the court the GLA failed to follow its own dairy policy when deciding whether to prosecute.
It had considered additional criteria not included in the policy – including whether the alleged offences had taken place for a period of 12 months or more.
The was an abuse of process where there was a clear and settled policy that should have been followed, Mr Vaitilingam told Swindon Magistrates Court on Tuesday (27 March).
It made the GLA decision to prosecute unreasonable and oppressive, he said.
The prosecution is being brought by Defra on behalf of the GLA.
Prosecution QC Brendan Moorhouse argued that the GLA was within its rights to bring the charges, which were in the public interest.
District judge Simon Cooper ruled in favour of Defra.
The GLA could have brought more prosecutions but had focused on those it believed stood most chance of success, he said.
It had done so by marshalling together those cases where the alleged offences had taken place for 12 months or longer.
This might seem arbitrary but it was tactical rather than unreasonable or oppressive, said the judge.
The four farmers are due to have their cases heard over the next two days. Reporting restrictions prevent the naming of the gangmaster in relation to the case.