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Brother and sister farmers sentenced for animal welfare offences

Published: 18 December 2019

A brother and sister have both received suspended prison sentences for failing to protect animals from pain and suffering and not following strict regulations on disposing of dead livestock at their Derbyshire farm.

Stephen Hitchcock, 35, of Slades Farm, Whitewells Lane, Belper, was given an 8 month prison sentence suspended for 24 months at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court in Derby on Tuesday (17 December 2019) after admitting 3 charges under the Animal By-Products Regulations 2013 and 2 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006 at an earlier hearing. The suspended sentence was made up of 4 weeks for the charges of failing to dispose of dead livestock and 8 weeks for the animal welfare offences, to run concurrently.

Susan Hitchcock, 38, also of Slades Farm, Whitewells Lane, received the same suspended sentence after previously admitting one charge under the Animal By-Products Regulations 2013 and 2 charges under the Animal Welfare Act 2006.

Our trading standards team brought the case following a visit to Slades Farm in May last year. The visit was prompted after concerns were raised by a member of the public.

At the earlier hearing in October 2019, Stephen and Susan Hitchcock pleaded guilty to tethering 2 cows on chains so short they could not exhibit normal behaviour, not protecting a cow laid in a field from pain and suffering before it died and charges of failing to dispose of cattle and sheep carcasses found at the farm.

In sentencing the Hitchcocks, District Judge Jonathan Taaffe stated that he had taken into account character references from professionals in the Derbyshire area who had traded with the defendants and were shocked to find them in this situation.

However, he did not accept that it could be classed as an isolated incident. The number of carcasses and locations on the farm indicated that it had been going on for some time.

Following the sentencing, District Judge Taaffe ordered the Hitchcocks to pay full costs of £3,716.75 each (to be paid within 28 days) and a victim surcharge of £115 each.

Our Cabinet Member for Health and Communities Councillor Carol Hart said:

“This is a particularly distressing case and I welcome the result from the court as it sends out a clear message that behaviour like this, whatever the circumstances, is never acceptable.

“Leaving animal carcasses to rot in this way poses a serious threat to public health and the health of other animals due to the potential transmission of disease.

“The scenes witnessed by Derbyshire County Council trading standards officers at the farm must have been highly distressing and I am always impressed by their dedication and commitment to work professionally in such circumstances.

“I hope this will act as a warning to others that practices like these will not be tolerated.”