A livestock worker who forged documents which risked unsafe meat being processed for human consumption has been sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for two years.
Timothy Misson, of Overleigh Drive, Eccleston, Chester, was also sentenced to 70 hours unpaid community service during a hearing at Chester Crown Court on Wednesday (May 20). He was ordered to pay £2,500 in prosecution costs.
The 42-year-old pleaded guilty to 10 counts of fraud involving documents relating to the slaughter of livestock in a prosecution brought by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Regulatory Services.
The court heard that Misson forged vets’ signatures certifying that cows - which for various reasons were slaughtered outside of an abattoir - had been examined by a vet prior to slaughter and were free from disease. In fact, no vet’s examination had taken place.
By failing to comply with stringent food safety procedures, the court heard that his actions risked diseased meat passing into the food chain for human consumption.
At the time of the offences Misson worked for Beeston-based Livestock Supplies Ltd and was responsible for transporting cows from farms to abattoirs.
The company was not prosecuted and there was no evidence to suggest it was complicit in Misson’s actions.
The court heard that he slaughtered the animals at the point of collection and then made out certificates purporting to be signed by a vet which enabled the abattoir to accept the carcasses for processing.
The prosecution’s case was that Misson wanted to avoid the cost and inconvenience of a formal inspection.
Enforcement officers from the council’s animal health team were alerted to his activities when a vet at a Cheshire slaughterhouse noticed that all the sections of a declaration appeared to have been completed by the same person.
The vet named on the document was contacted and confirmed that no inspection had taken place.
The court heard that Misson also used the names of several local farmers on documents, some of whom had been dead for a number of years.
During the extensive investigation, 17 farmers were interviewed. All but four confirmed they had no involvement in entering their details as the owners of the animals involved.
When interviewed, Misson claimed to have problems with reading and writing and alleged that he had struggled to complete the forms. Enquiries made to his former employers showed this to be untrue.
Vanessa Griffiths, the council’s regulatory services manager, said: “These false declarations created a serious risk that meat from animals that were diseased or unfit for consumption could have entered our food chain.
“Misson attempted to bypass a stage of inspection that is a crucial part of the system of control for meat processing.
“I’m very pleased that our thorough investigations stopped this dangerous practice. This is an example of how officers in our regulatory services team are protecting the public as part of their day to day job.”
Animals that are slaughtered outside of a regulated abattoir must be examined by a vet to confirm they are free of disease before they are slaughtered.
Although inspections are also carried out after slaughter, some bovine diseases that are a danger to humans can only be detected while the animal is alive.