Farmer gets £300,000 payout after manure protest against bank

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The Independent Online

Where there's muck there really is brass, David Cannon discovered to his joy yesterday.

Where there's muck there really is brass, David Cannon discovered to his joy yesterday.

For the past 10 years, the 71-year-old farmer has been dumping and spraying piles of manure at branches of National Westminster bank.

It was his way of protesting against the bank that, he claims, ruined his livestock business after making unauthorised transfers of cash from his farm account.

But yesterday Mr Cannon, of South Dissington Farm, Ponteland, Northumberland, said his campaign was finally over after NatWest agreed to pay him more than £300,000 in an out of court settlement.

Mr Cannon declared peace after receiving a 60-day suspended jail sentence for damaging the bank's Ponteland branch by dumping 10 tons of manure outside.

The farmer, during his protests, had also barricaded himself inside the Ponteland branch, blocked the entrance to bank premises in Newcastle with a tractor and nailed shut the doors of another branch.

But magistrates at Bedlington, Northumberland, were told by Brad Stephens, Mr Cannon's solicitor, that the dispute "was now at an end" after NatWest increased its offer of compensation.

Mr Stephens told the court that "his actions have been perhaps silly, but one can understand his frustration after all these years of not getting his actions settled." He added that "at a time when he should have been living a reasonably comfortable lifestyle he was living in abject poverty" with his wife Mary because of the longrunning dispute.

Mr Cannon, who had to sell his prize herd of Ayrshire cattle to pay debts incurred during the dispute, said he remained bitter at the way he had been treated. He added: "The protest is over, I guess.

"It has taken ten and a half years to get them [NatWest Bank] to stand up to what they have done. I have no regrets and I would do the same again, but my wife will be pleased that it is all over."

NatWest said in a statement after the case: "Mr and Mrs Cannon served proceedings in 1995 alleging mishandling of a partnership account by the Bank.

"Both sides now consider that this long-running matter is best settled by consent and the bank has agreed, without accepting liability, that it will make a payment to Mr and Mrs Cannon and meet their reasonable legal costs to bring the dispute to an end."