Farmer fined pounds 10,000 over false BSE claim

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The Independent Online
A farmer who falsely claimed that four cows he sold at auction had come from a BSE-free farm was yesterday fined pounds 10,000.

Joseph Roper signed a Ministry of Agriculture declaration which stated the Friesian cows had come from a farm which had not experienced BSE within six years of their sale last year.

But yesterday magistrates in Worcester heard that Roper, 42, who owns 200-acre Lower House Farm in Suckley, Hereford and Worcester, had reported a case of BSE in June 1993. The court was told that trading standards officers from Hereford and Worcester County Council were alerted after a vet at Worcester Livestock Market received results of a routine computer check to verify the farmer' claims.

Mohammed Irshad, prosecuting, said that signing the declaration affected the sale value of cattle.

He said the four charges had resulted from documents signed by Roper at three different sales last year.

"This affects the export value of cows and their value at auction. It wasn't a requirement that everyone had to sign the declaration but if they did it showed BSE had not occurred and that affected the value of the cattle."

Mr Irshad said that Mr Roper had been informed in October 5 1993 that one of his cows had suffered from BSE before being slaughtered.

This finding, he added, meant the farmer could not sell cattle under the declaration until 1999. Roper's case pre-dated the recent BSE scare. He was fined pounds 2,500 for each of the four charges, to which he had pleaded guilty. He was also told to pay pounds 500 towards prosecution costs. Four other similar charges were withdrawn.

Sentencing Roper, chairman of the magistrates, Brian Smith, said: "The bench feels very seriously about making false statements, in particular with something likely to enter the food chain."

For the defence, Chris Read had told the court that the offences had been due to a clerical error. He added that Roper was unaware that the cow which had died in 1993 had officially been diagnosed as having BSE.

Mr Read said: ""We are talking about a very busy farmer working long hours who simply mishandled his paperwork."