A NORTH Cornwall farmer has been handed a suspended prison sentence, ordered to pay more than £6,000 in fines and costs and banned from keeping pigs, geese and sheep for six years after admitting a string of animal welfare offences.

Kevin Hutchings, aged 53, of Pattacott Farm Camping and Glamping site, Maxworthy, Launceston pleaded guilty to:

  • Not housing geese in contravention of last winter’s poultry housing order.
  • Allowing geese to have access to scrap and broken glass
  • Failing to provide pigs clean water, dry bedding and allowing access to sharp injurious objects
  • Failing to provide emaciated sheep prompt effective treatment or giving them good quality feed
  • Failing to provide baby piglets clean dry bedding
  • keeping sheep without adequate grazing and having access to collapsed fencing.

District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) Stuart Smith heard the case on Thursday,  21 December.

Cornwall Council’s Animal Health team and vets from the Animal Plant and Health Agency visited the farm in January and February 2023 and found appalling conditions.

Kevin Hill prosecuted for Cornwall Council and informed the court that Mr Hutchings had failed to provide geese, sheep and pigs with adequate care.  Most pigs had no clean water or dry bedding, the roof of one building had collapsed leaving rain to soak the pigs bedding.  

Geese had access to broken glass and scrap and were not housed as required by last winter’s housing order.  This was to prevent bird flu from wild birds infecting captive birds, and causing the disease to spread, necessitating the culling of commercial flocks.

The officers found emaciated sheep, one of which was so weak it collapsed during examination.  It had no muscle or fat covering on its back or pelvis. The sheep was condition score zero and emaciated to the point of death, sadly this sheep later died. Two other emaciated sheep were nursed back to health by Hutchings.

One pen of newly born piglets had dirty water and wet, faeces coated, bedding.  The piglets were huddled together to stay warm and were all shivering due to the cold.  Their mother’s feed trough was broken and had jagged sharp edges, which could have injured the piglets or sow.

Chris Spencer, representing Mr Hutchings said that Mr Hutchings was under extreme financial strain and that last winter he had attempted to trade his way out of debt, but that this had resulted in him overstocking the farm so not all animals had food.  Since the officers visits Mr Hutchings had taken steps to improve the conditions on the farm. He had sold some sheep and pigs.

DJ Smith said that he considered in all the matters Hutchings had high culpability and the harm caused to the emaciated sheep  was serious.  The matter was aggravated by Hutchings previous conviction, the number of animals affected and his aggression shown towards the inspectors.  He noted that Hutchings had taken steps to remedy the situation on his farm.

Hutchings was given a custodial sentence of 4 weeks for the AI housing breach, 6 weeks for the failures to safeguard the welfare of his sheep, geese and pigs (to be served concurrently) and given 18 weeks custody for the long term neglect of his emaciated sheep (this was to be served consecutively).  A total of 22 weeks, this was suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to pay a £200 fine, a £154 surcharge and the Council’s costs of £6123.

Mr Hutchings was also banned from keeping pigs, sheep and geese for 6 years, this was suspended for 56 days to allow for disposal of the animals.  Mr Hutchings was warned that any reoffending in the next 18 months would activate the suspended sentence in full.

Martyn Alvey, the portfolio holder responsible for the Environment and Climate Change, a role that includes oversight of Cornwall Council’s animal health team, said: “This case clearly demonstrates that Cornwall Council will take action to ensure that standards are met in our farming industry.

"This sentence sends a clear message that it is not acceptable to cut corners in the care for animals.  Mr Hutchings has been held accountable for his own incompetent actions.”

Stuart Benson, Cornwall Council’s Head of Public Protection said “Cornwall Council officers work to assist farmers, small holders and businesses across Cornwall in complying with the relevant legislation.

"However, where officers find serious non-compliance, the Council will take formal action to protect the reputation of the vast majority of the Cornish farming industry”.