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Devon farmer avoids jail after breaching animal ban

Posted on: 16 January 2020

A Devon farmer who was banned from keeping animals has narrowly avoided jail after admitting farming a flock of over 500 sheep.

At Exeter Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday January 15, Philip Govier, 74, from Willtown Farm, Clayhidon, was sentenced to 22 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, following a prosecution by Devon, Somerset and Torbay Trading Standards.

District Judge Matteson told the court that if it hadn’t been for his poor health he would have gone straight to jail.

The court heard that Govier was banned from keeping farmed animals in 2014 after a  conviction under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

However, following a tip-off from the public and intelligence from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) trading standards brought a new prosecution during which the Court ordered the flock to be seized and sold to another farmer.

After initially refusing to acknowledge that he had breached his ban, on the first day of his trial last month Govier changed his plea to guilty.

He also pled guilty for failing to provide adequate treatment and a suitable environment for them.

During sentencing the judge said that Govier showed a blatant disregard for the disqualification order, and his actions resulted in further welfare offences. sheep seized

In mitigation the court heard that he had been a farmer his whole life and was a ‘proud and stubborn’ man and although he knew he was disqualified, he did not fully appreciate what that meant.

Govier’s defence said it ‘was not a deliberate act of cruelty or neglect’ just that he struggled to keep up with everything that needed to be done.

In addition to the suspended sentence he was given a four-month curfew order and fined £2385 with £4140.costs and a £120 Victim Surcharge.

Councillor Rufus Gilbert, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Councillor Rufus Gilbert,Trading Standards said: “Thankfully, having to take this kind of legal action is rare, and most farmers and smallholders take the welfare of their animals very seriously. Our staff work hard to try to assist and support farmers but when we find serious breaches we will take action and work with partners to prosecute those responsible.”

Matthew Fogaty, Lead Officer for Animal Health & Welfare at Devon, Somerset, and Torbay Trading Standards Service said:  “While the vast majority of our livestock farmers operate to high welfare standards with good husbandry practices, this sentence acts a warning that we will not tolerate cruelty and neglect to animals, and where appropriate those who disregard and abuse animal health and welfare regulations will find themselves in court.”

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