Friday, February 29, 2008

Government Rural Affairs civil servant accused in animal abuse case in the Scottish Borders

A Scottish rural affairs civil servant is being brought to court under the Animal Health & Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 after being accused of starving farm animals to death.

The civil servant appears to be claiming his human rights were breached because investigators did not obtain proper search warrants to enter his premises and discover the nature of the problem ...

The incident occurred in the Scottish Borders, seemingly a haven of such cases ...

The Herald reports :

Civil servant in court over 50 dead lambs

ROBERT FAIRBURN February 29 2008

A Scottish rural affairs civil servant has been accused of starving to death more than 50 lambs on his farm.

Andrew Struthers, 48, is one of the first people to be brought to court under the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 which his own government department drew up.

However, he is claiming his human rights were breached when animal welfare investigators raided his fields in January 27, claiming they did not obtain search warrants.

After a lengthy legal debate, a sheriff is now considering whether their evidence is admissible for a trial against Mr Struthers of Kettleshill Farm, West Linton, Peeblesshire.

He is accused of two charges of causing unnecessary suffering by failing to supply food for the lambs, and failing to dispose of their carcasses between October 2006 and January 2007.

Peebles Sheriff Court was told how Chief Inspector Paul Anderson and Inspector Ross Wilkie of the Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) observed six fields near Struthers's home for a couple of days before entering Deanfoot Farm.

Defence lawyer Chris Dickson told the court: "On these days they hadn't taken any immediate action or taken steps to contact Mr Struthers. All they did was make arrangements for a search the following day.

"If they were of the view that animals were in distress they would have acted much quicker."

It is alleged that the officers discovered the remains of 52 lambs scattered around the six fields at Deanfoot Farm.

A further three had to be destroyed by the divisional veterinary officer.

But during their visit to the farm they also gathered evidence.

Mr Dickson added: "The investigating officers took 64 photographs and they also took three lamb carcasses for diagnostics. Their first actions were to take photographs of ring feeders and it wasn't until later in their search that they came across animals in distress."

Almost the entire prosecution case against Mr Struthers relies on the evidence gathered by the SSPCA officers. Despite a failure to gain warrants, the Crown argues the officers were within their rights.

Procurator-fiscal depute Alasdair Fay said: "We are talking about new legislation here and its interpretation by agencies working beneath it. The officers became aware of sheep carcasses and they were of the opinion that the situation was becoming worse.

"Faced with animals which were already dead and other animals suffering, as well as Mr Struthers not being available, it would be excusable if the statute wasn't followed - but I believe the statute was followed."

Sheriff John Horsburgh will decide if the evidence collected by the SSPCA at Deanfoot Farm will be admissible. The debate was adjourned until March 19 for his decision.

Mr Struthers worked as an officer in the agricultural and land services division for the Scottish Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SERAD) which drew up the new legislation that he is now being prosecuted under.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman declined to comment on the case.

No comments: