Farmer Wins Cattle Bedding Court Case

UK - A North Wales farmer has been cleared by magistrates of failing to provide his cattle with dry bedding after a dramatic intervention by his solicitor.
calendar icon 21 October 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

John Davies, 41, a fourth generation farmer in the picturesque Vale of Conwy, found himself at the centre of a court battle after officers from Conwy Trading Standards carried out a visit to his farm following an anonymous call.

After carrying out only a visual check, rather than properly examining the condition of the straw, the officers prosecuted Mr Davies on the grounds that he had failed to keep his cattle on a lying area which had well maintained dry bedding or was well drained.

During the hearing at Llandudno Magistrates, the Court heard from Trading Standards officer John Bartley Wynne, who accused the farmer of failing to provide his cattle with “fresh, golden-coloured straw”.

However, Mr Davies’ solicitor, David Kirwan, Senior Partner and a farming specialist with law firm Kirwans, said the allegations by trading standards officers were a case of “bureaucratic lunacy”.

He told the court that his client had only left his farm – store cattle and sheep set on 100 acres in Carmel – for a matter of a few hours.

Mr Kirwan said that given the tendency of cattle to relieve themselves on a regular basis, the farmer would have to be with his animals every minute of the day to ensure “fresh, golden-coloured straw”.

In a ground-breaking submission, Mr Kirwan argued that an element of “proportionality and reasonableness” had been inferred when the legislation had been drafted requiring farmers to keep their cattle “on, or have access at all times to, a lying area which either had well maintained dry bedding or was well drained.”

The Court accepted Mr Kirwan’s submission and also criticised trading standards officers for failing to go beyond the visual checking of the bedding at Mr Davies’ farm.

In addition, there was heated argument on the grounds of hearsay over answers in a trading standards questionnaire completed by the FUW on behalf Mr Davies.

While the prosecution was allowed to use the answers as part of its case, Mr Kirwan succeeded in persuading magistrates that an additional comment that Mr Davies “regretted” what had happened did not amount to a confession as the prosecution had argued.

Speaking after the victory, Mr Kirwan said: “Yet again we have seen an example of trading standards officers taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“They have taken the legislation as it stands and used it to trap a hard-working, fourth generation farmer in a bureaucratic nightmare.

“However, the Court thankfully accepted my ground-breaking submission that no right-minded person would expect a farmer to stand over his cattle every minute of every hour of every day.

“I hope that this sends out a clear signal to trading standards officers across the country that farmers will not tolerate being pushed about when their livelihoods and reputations are at stake.”

The Court ordered that Mr Davies’ defence costs should be paid.

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