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Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 18:11 GMT 19:11 UK
Farmer kept quiet about disease
Bobby Waugh
Bobby Waugh had denied the charges
A pig farmer has been found guilty of keeping quiet about an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among his livestock at the start of last year's crisis.

Bobby Waugh, who ran a pig fattening farm in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, was found guilty of nine animal health and cruelty charges.

His farm supplied livestock to an abattoir in Essex where the disease was first detected in February 2001.

Waugh faced at total of 15 charges at South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court.

I don't regret anything I did because I didn't know the disease was there

Bobby Waugh

Judge James Prowse found Waugh guilty on Thursday of five counts of failing to notify the authorities of the outbreak at Burnside Farm.

He was also found guilty of one count of feeding unprocessed waste to his animals and one charge of failing to properly dispose of animal by-products.

Waugh was convicted of two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to pigs and cleared on two similar charges.

He was also acquitted of one charge of bringing unprocessed waste on to the farm and a further three charges of failing to dispose of animal by-products.

A charge of failing to keep records of pig movements was dropped during the three week trial brought by Northumberland County Council Trading Standards Department.

The hearing was adjourned for pre-sentence reports and Waugh is expected to be sentenced at the same court on 28 June.

Pigs on Burnside Farm, Northumberland
Vets found 80% of the pigs had the disease

Waugh could face up to six months in prison.

The virus was discovered at Waugh's fattening unit at Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland, in February, 2001.

Speaking before the verdicts were returned, Waugh told BBC News: "I don't regret anything I did because I didn't know the disease was there."

His solicitor David Wilkinson said after the hearing: "Bobby Waugh has been acquitted of seven of the 16 charges against him.

"He is of course upset and disappointed at the convictions that have been entered on the remaining nine charges.

"He has maintained his innocence throughout and will now be considering his position further with his legal team."

Rapid spread

During the trial the judge was shown a video which depicted some of Waugh's 527 pigs huddled together, some of them lying twitching on the floor.

The prosecution said he should have spotted symptoms of the disease in his animals.

It was also claimed he routinely fed his stock untreated catering waste from local schools and restaurants.

Waugh said the symptoms of the disease had come on very rapidly and so were very difficult to spot.

Anthony Gibson of the National Farmers Union (NFU) told BBC News 24 something went "badly wrong" on Waugh's farm.

"Had the disease been reported as soon it arrived at that unit, the outbreak would have been vastly smaller and vastly less disastrous and less expensive than it was," he said.

Mr Gibson added that further questions had to be answered.

"This farm was known to the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) and to trading standards as not the best managed pig farm in Northumberland.

"They had several opportunities to close it down and they failed to.

New measures

"I think they have a share of culpability too."

A statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: "The guilty verdicts that have been reached demonstrate how seriously these matters are regarded.

"Defra has since banned the practice of feeding swill to pigs in the UK, and has set up a range of measures to clamp down on the illegal import of uncooked meats."

Waugh, 56, of St Luke's Road, Pallion, Sunderland, had denied five counts of failing to notify officials of the outbreak.

He also denied four counts of cruelty to animals, one of taking unprocessed catering waste on to premises where pigs are kept, one of feeding unprocessed waste to pigs and four of failing to dispose of animal by-products.

The case against his brother Ronnie, 60, who also ran the farm, was adjourned indefinitely due to ill-health.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Inspectors found an atmosphere that disease could thrive in"
Bobby Waugh's lawyer, David Wilkinson
"He is upset and disappointed"
NFU's Rob Simpson
"I am worried Mr Waugh will become a scape goat"

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30 May 02 | England
30 May 02 | England
22 May 02 | England
07 May 02 | England
08 Oct 01 | England
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