Butcher prosecuted for serious food hygiene offences

The District Council’s Environmental Health Food Safety Team has successfully taken legal action against a local butcher for serious food hygiene offences.

David Ian Tomlins, aged 66 of Green Lane, Hucclecote, and former food business operator of The Country Butcher, Main Road, Huntley, pleaded guilty at Cheltenham Magistrates Court in November 2016, to seven charges of failing to keep his premises clean and one of failing to comply with an improvement notice from hygiene inspectors.  He also admitted two offences of selling meat and meat products to pubs and restaurants in London without authority from the Food Standards Agency.

Passing sentence on Mr Tomlins at Gloucester Crown Court on Monday 13 March, Recorder Adam Vaitilingam QC said: "It seems to me that no members of the public who saw the conditions at your premises would ever have knowingly eaten food coming from that shop.  You were cutting corners, you were flouting the rules, and you were doing it for financial gain."

Mr Tomlins was fined £24,000, which must be paid within a year and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £30,000, to be paid within two years.  Failure to pay the fine on time will result in Tomlins having to serve a year in prison.

The breaches of food hygiene legislation were discovered during a routine visit to The Country Butchers in Huntley premises in March 2015, by the District Council’s Food Safety Officers, resulting in hygiene improvement notices being served by the Council.  Subsequent visits to the butchers shop found that Mr Tomlins had failed to take adequate action to rectify the situation, resulting in the Council pursuing legal action in order to protect public health. On one of their follow-up inspections, Council officers discovered paperwork which led to the discovery of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of unauthorised sales to London restaurants.

Although the Judge viewed the hygiene conditions at the business as “truly shocking”, he treated the long distance sales without approval as the more serious offences. He concluded that Mr Tomlins “deliberately withheld” information about this side of his business because he knew he would never get the approval of the Food Standards Agency for it. He told Mr Tomlins “You could not afford to lose the custom you were getting. You took the risk and that risk has come home to roost in these court proceedings.” The Judge also stated that the extent of the unauthorised trade and Mr Tomlin’s “flagrant dishonesty” in hiding it only came to light as a result of “some impressive detective work” by the Council’s officers.

Councillor Marrilyn Smart, cabinet member for the environment said: “We have a responsibility to ensure that all food premises and businesses in the district comply with Food Hygiene Regulations.  When low standards of hygiene are identified, such failings are treated seriously, acted upon and if improvements are not made by the food business operators then we have a duty to take legal steps to protect the health of the public.”

The Country Butcher shop in Huntley closed down in December 2016.

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