Cumbrian farm must pay £60k over record-keeping failures

A Cumbrian farming partnership which admitted serious record keeping failures has been fined £52,000.

Messrs C Dent were charged with a string of offences following an investigation by Cumbria Trading Standards.

The probe revealed a catalogue of administrative problems, which had spiralled out of control as the long-established family business expanded.

Between 2007 and 2014, the firm breached several legal requirements which exist to prevent the spread of contagious agricultural diseases, such as bovine TB and BSE.

The investigation had found that the Dents had bought cattle from a herd dispersal in west Cumbria, which was later confirmed as being badly infected with TB.

They also failed to report the deaths of hundreds of cattle and keep records. The Dents also said cattle were dead to vets carrying out TB tests, only for them to discover that they were alive and had not been tested.

The failings led to the risk of disease being transmitted, not only on the farm but to other farming businesses, Carlisle Crown Court was told.

Messrs Dent, of Bridge End Farm, Kirkby Thore, near Penrith, pleaded guilty to 10 specimen charges on 8 April. A further 613 other matters were taken into consideration.

Husband and wife Colin and Yvonne Dent represented the business when sentencing took place at Carlisle Crown Court on Friday (8 May).

In addition to the fine, recorder Philip Curran fined the Dents £52,000 and ordered them to pay £7,500 costs.

In sentencing, Mr Curran said the defendants had no previous history of failure, had co-operated with the authorities, and had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity. Therefore he reduced the penalty by one third.

Mr Curran told the couple, who have since sought to improve their management: “It is a critical part of farm development that proper records are kept.”

He told the court that the farm was a very substantial business and noted the devastation caused in Cumbria during the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease epidemic and the threat posed by TB.

Speaking after sentencing, Phil Greenup, Cumbria County Council’s Trading Standards senior manager, said: “The spread of disease can have a devastating impact on farmers and the rural economy.

“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.”

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