Farmer banned from looking after sheep for life

Posted on: 9 November 2016

A Chew Stoke farmer has been banned from looking after sheep for the rest of his life, handed a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay over £11,000.

Edgar John Keedwell, 70, of Breach Hill Farm, Chew Stoke, was convicted of 13 animal welfare-related offences at North Somerset Magistrates Court on Thursday 13 October.

The offences included causing unnecessary suffering to 19 sheep under his care.

The conviction followed an investigation by Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service (DSTSS) with the support of the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA).

At Weston Super Mare Magistrates Court on Tuesday 8 November Keedwell was handed a 16 week prison sentence, suspended for two years, and fined £5,000.

He was also ordered to pay the £6,363.95 prosecution costs and a Victim Surcharge of £80. The total financial penalty of £11,443.95 has to be cleared within three years.

Keedwell was disqualified from keeping sheep for the rest of his life and cannot apply for the disqualification to be reviewed or removed for five years. The disqualification is suspended for four months until 8 March 2017 to allow him to dispose of his current stock.

Keedwell caused unnecessary suffering to 19 sheep under his care which he kept in fields at Rains Batch, near Charterhouse, Somerset last winter.

The court heard that Keedwell failed to seek veterinary advice for his animals who suffered variously from lesions, infections and lameness. One sheep had an untreated abscess.

He failed to promptly isolate sick or injured sheep in suitable accommodation and, despite requests by a visiting trading standards officer, failed to treat a ewe for flystrike.

When DSTSS and APHA officers visited the site two of the affected animals were so emaciated they had to be destroyed with the rest needing urgent treatment.

They found dozens of rotting sheep carcasses in the fields containing live sheep and two large piles of decomposing carcases in a heap and in a trailer at the bottom of one of the fields.

Prior to the visits from trading standards, Keedwell had not consulted a vet as to why his flock had such a high mortality rate or taken appropriate steps for proper disposal.  He also failed to keep a record of mortalities.

A community order was considered because of his age, previous good character, the good condition of his cattle and that as a result of conviction Keedwell has had his farm assurance revoked,  resulting in a financial loss to his business.

But the number of sick animals and carcasses, the time period of neglect, the deliberate neglect in two cases and the number of charges amounting to a pattern of offending, led the court to decide that a suspended sentence was more appropriate.

Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Deputy Leader with cllr-david-hallresponsibility for Trading Standards said:  “This sentence sends a clear message about the seriousness of animal welfare offences.
“Laws are in place to protect animals, control disease and to ensure the safety of the wider food chain. We will prosecute farmers who contravene these laws.

“An enormous amount of credit must go to the thorough and detailed investigation by our Trading Standards Officers and thanks must go to our colleagues at APHA.”

Councillor Roger Croad, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member with cllr-roger-croadresponsibility for Trading Standards,  said: “Keedwell showed no remorse and the offences were so serious magistrates decided that only a suspended custodial sentence was appropriate.

“After 55 years of farming Keedwell ought to have known better; he ought to have known his animals were suffering and he failed to take appropriate action resulting in multiple deaths.”

Advice and guidance on the requirements for farm animal welfare and the disposal of fallen stock can be obtained from the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards website.

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