A JUDGE sentenced a Limerick farmer who had “put the entire Irish beef industry at risk” to seven months imprisonment.
Timothy Gleeson, aged 30, of Buffanoka, Cappamore pleaded guilty to 10 offences which were in breach of regulations governing the identification of bovines and animal movement.
Judge John Coughlan also handed down fines totalling €14,500 for the offences which started in March 2012.
Department of Agriculture investigations officer John McConville said in 2012 there were 70 movements of animals by Gleeson into the herd of a “lady farmer on her own”.
“Half of them she didn’t know anything about. She was very concerned about it regarding her Single Farm Payment,” said Mr McConville.
Barrister for the Department of Agriculture, Geri Silke, said there was “no traceability for certain periods of time”.
Mr McConville also outlined that Gleeson advertised “black calves” on a website. A different lady farming on her own got in touch. The court heard Gleeson had bought Jersey cross calves in West Cork with a value of €100 each.
“Her son came to view them at Mr Gleeson’s premises. He wanted assurance that they were Aberdeen Angus calves. When the calves were delivered by Mr Gleeson they didn’t have the passports, they were with the vets he said,” said Mr McConville, who added that Gleeson told them that the West Cork farmer was his father-in-law which isn’t the case.
The calves were sold for €250 to €300 a head. A cheque by the lady for €4,000 had been handed over to Gleeson but her “quick thinking stopped it”. However, it took Gleeson six weeks to take the calves back.
Mr McConville said in June 2013 the Department received a call from a farmer in Tipperary that there were cattle grazing on his land that was fenced off for forestry.
Five or six didn’t have any tags. There was one dead animal in a stream said Mr McConville. The cattle were traced back to Gleeson.
“He said that he was coming back from a mart, the truck broke down and he put them into a field,” said Mr McConville.
The judge was told that on two occasions cattle were bought at marts in Munster, registered in the first lady’s herd but they didn’t go there. The cattle were sold on to a third party.
“They were possibly at Mr Gleeson’s farm,” said Mr McConville. “If disease did break out you can’t trace it,” said Judge Coughlan. “Exactly,” said Mr McConville.
Judge Coughlan said the fact that they were two ladies farming alone – was Gleeson “targeting the vulnerable?”
“Yes, it appears so. They didn’t want to go to marts,” said Mr McConville, who added that Gleeson also forged documents for the movement of animals by signing the lady herd owner’s name without her knowledge.
“This is elaborate fraud,” said Judge Coughlan.
The court heard that Gleeson had a herd test last month and there were three animals unaccounted for and his herd is restricted. “He hasn’t learned his lesson,” said Judge Coughlan.
Gleeson’s solicitor, John Herbert said there is paperwork for those alleged missing animals. He said that the summonses before the court related to offences which mainly occurred between March and April in 2012.
“Mr Gleeson had an arrangement with the lady to buy calves for her – to purchase calves in her name at marts. He would take the calves to her and she would take what she wanted. He would then bring them back to his own farm. He accepts he should have registered them. It is unfortunate that didn’t happen,” said Mr Herbert.
Regarding the calves that were almost sold to the second lady, Mr Herbert said the son came to see the animals.
“The passports were awaiting the delivery of the cheque. Business is business and people don’t hand it [money] over easily,” said Mr Herbert.
On the cattle found near forestry the solicitor said he had instructions that his client’s truck broke down so he left them into a field.
“He came back the following day to pick them up but they were missing,” said Mr Herbert, who accepted that the first lady farms on her own but the second one’s son had returned from Australia to the farm.
He said the regulations are “obviously very important” and Gleeson wasn’t “on top of his game”. Mr Herbert said all the paperwork was in an office which allowed the Department to trace it all back. “If it was a fully criminal enterprise he would have destroyed it,” said Mr Herbert. Since then he has been “more on top of things”, he added.
Mr Herbert described Gleeson as a “cattle jobber” involved in the buy and selling of cattle.
Judge Coughlan asked about his previous convictions to be told he had one relating to an unburied carcass. “He has previous history,” said Judge Coughlan.
Under European Communities (Identification of Bovines) Regulations 2009 there were two counts of movement of an animal from a mart premises without the animal moving directly to its place of destination and one of transfer of ownership breaches.
Under National Beef Assurance Scheme (Animal Movement) Regulations there were two charges of failure to notify the Minister of the movement of an animal to a premises within seven days of the movement taking place.
There were three of Gleeson of having in his possession or under his control a forged document or an altered document, and two counts of forging or uttering an animal movement notification knowing it to be forged.
Judge handed down fines totalling €14,500 and seven months custody.
“In my view it is elaborate fraud. He put the entire Irish beef industry at risk, simple as that,” said Judge Coughlan.
Recognaissance was fixed in the event of an appeal.