Farmer wins court costs appeal

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by Andrew Carey

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A COUNTY Limerick farmer has won his appeal against court costs for his conviction on charges of illegally moving cattle contrary to European and Irish directives on traceability.

Last October, John Hanly (58) of Grange pleaded guilty to eight offences relating to animal movement and identification legislation.

He was fined €2,000 for failing to give notification of the movement of animals within seven days and for moving animals from a mart to a different location than that which was specified.

The Department of Agriculture became aware of discrepancies in relation to a herd of cattle owned by a Waterford farmer. Mr Hanly, an authorised agent for the purchase and transportation of animals, had been instructed to buy between 40 to 50 cattle for the farmer.

However, the court was told that 180 cattle were moved into the Waterford farmer’s herd. Mr Hanly instructed mart officials to transfer the cattle into the herd number associated with the Waterford herd but not all the animals were delivered there.

Department inspectors said that in separate incidences and dates in 2011, Mr Hanly bought and paid for an animal, registered it to go into the Waterford herd but it ended up on a Limerick farm.

This went to the heart of livestock traceability as Ireland has an official brucellosis free status but TB can still be present.

Costs of €3,000 were awarded against Mr Hanly and this became a matter of appeal at the Circuit Court.

Mr Hanly’s solicitor Brendan Gill told Judge Carroll Moran at Limerick Circuit Court that the father of three had pleaded guilty when the matter was before the court and that this clearly assisted the State greatly.

He added that Mr Hanly was one of three agents under investigation and that the figure of €3,000 in costs was “just plucked from the skies as there was no documentation to support it – it was just arrived at”.

State prosecutor Aidan Judge said that the Minister set up the traceability system which made it possible to fully track cattle from birth to slaughter or death and disposal and the legislation obliged the farmer or the agents to help trace cattle in case of serious disease.

He said that the Department had initiated checks across four counties and that this was the basis of the costs incurred.

However Mr Gill said that Mr Hanly, who was a man of modest means, would find it very difficult to meet the fines and the costs payments and that the matter had already had an impact on his reputation in the business.

Allowing the appeal, Judge Carroll Moran said he was satisfied that Mr Hanly, who had no previous convictions, was of very modest means and ordered that he did not have to pay the costs. However, he affirmed the €2,000 payable in fines.