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Turkey criminals jailed and given £400K bill

Katie Coyne22/06/2016 - 14:55

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Turkeys found stored in the garage
Turkeys found stored in the garage

A jail sentence and £400,000 in fines and costs have been handed to two bosses for storing large quantities of defrosting turkey meat in dirty water in the first sentence handed out in Wales under the new sentencing guidelines.

The two directors of Severnside Provisions were found guilty at Newport Crown Court of 12 food hygiene offences. Anthony O'Sullivan, 47, and Martin Lincoln, 46, were jailed for 24-weeks and ordered to pay a confiscation award of £271,815 under the Proceeds of Crime Act and council costs of £35,185. The company was also fined £100,000. The sentence has been welcomed by the CIEH.

Newport EH officers found large quantities of turkey defrosting outside in dirty water in the yard of the premises at the Leeway Industrial Estate, in December 2013, and being processed in a garage in unhygienic conditions.

These were seized and destroyed but some of the turkey had already been sold to butchers' shops, restaurants and other outlets so the Food Standards Agency had to issue a national recall. Also on site was found packing, labelling and trimming equipment.

Sonia Bagshaw principal EHO, said the frozen turkey being defrosted was already out-of-date and they had no way of knowing whether it was even frozen in-date.

She said someone buying one of the turkeys would have thought it was fresh and therefore safe to freeze. Ms Bagshaw added: 'So the level of bacterial growth would have been a concern as well as the physical contamination, because of the unhygienic conditions, from outside or from within the building.’

Regarding the new sentencing guidelines Ms Bagshaw added: ‘It’s probably clearer now for judges and magistrates how to sentence. So as long as you build your case with that in mind then it should give councils reassurance that we won’t have the randomness of sentencing that we have had in the past.’

Ms Bagshaw also urged other EHOs and local authorities to consider using the Proceeds of Crime Act. However, she added that her department was fortunate in having Trading Standards Officers in the authority they could call on for their expertise.

She said: ‘Once you feel you can see there is some criminal activity that has led to financial gain over a period that maintains a lifestyle of criminality then it’s definitely worth the council going through the Proceeds of Crime Act. We found we uncovered far more under that than we could have otherwise.

‘It’s a process that gets more money back in the coffers for local councils which is important in these days.’

Jenny Morris, CIEH principal policy officer, said: ‘This case is a great demonstration of the hard work EHOs do to keep the public safe. And whilst it’s good to see that the new sentencing guidelines resulted in a significant fine it’s also very clear that using the Proceeds of Crime Act is a major deterrent to criminal activity.’

Newport City EH officers started an investigation into the firm after a tip-off from the Food Standards Agency.

Using the Proceeds of Crime Act the investigators were able to look into the company’s financial background and found records indicating that the company had been illegally processing turkey in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – despite being told not to by the council.

Ms Bagshaw said the judge took a ‘dim view that they ignored the warning.’ She added: ‘Some of us expected a suspended sentence but their lack of honesty along the way didn’t do them any favours. Their deceit mislead us and the public.’

In 2010, Mr O'Sullivan had tried to pin the blame on Mr Lincoln so the council decided to prosecute both this time around so they couldn’t try to escape prosecution by blaming one another.

Bob Poole, Newport City Council's cabinet member for regulatory functions, said: ‘This is a satisfactory conclusion to what was a very worrying situation. This company was putting people's health at serious risk for the sake of profit.

‘I would like to thank the environmental health and legal officers who investigated and brought this successful prosecution. I know that the majority of food producers and sellers have extremely high standards and I'm sure they share our dismay at firms who don't take the same care.’




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