A farming union is demanding a full inquiry into the way a Welsh council prosecuted a farmer for alleged livestock movement rule breaches.
The case against Dan Jones, a National Trust tenant farmer, collapsed after prosecutors dropped the charges but the Farmers’ Union of Wales said the mental and financial repercussions for him and his family would be long lasting.
It now wants a full investigation into Conwy County Borough Council’s decision to pursue the case and the methods adopted by the authority as well as an unreserved apology to Mr Jones and compensation for harm and distress.
The case against drew national attention because of Mr Jones’ high-profile tenancy – three years ago he was awarded the tenancy of the National Trust’s farm on the Great Orme in north Wales for just £1 a year.
The media spotlight shifted when the council’s trading standards department prosecuted him, claiming he had failed to dispose of sheep carcasses on 145-acre Parc Farm and had failed to comply with movement regulations.
After a four-day court trial in Llandudno, the case was dropped on June 7th, bringing to an end what Mr Jones described as the most stressful chapter in his life.
“It put me in a very dark place at times, I was facing 20 charges, massive legal bills and looking at a maximum of 10 years in jail if I was found guilty,’’ he said.
Mr Jones said he was relieved that he had cleared his name but is angry at his treatment by trading standards officers.
They accused him of failing to dispose of three sheep carcasses, failing to keep a register of animal movements and nine counts of failing to notify the authorities of animals he had between 2016 and 2018, all charges he denied.
He said he was prosecuted with no warning. “I had never had any dealings with trading standards, never even had a visit from them let alone a warning or guidance.
“Their policy is to first of all help and advise when something is wrong but I wasn’t given that opportunity.’’
Mr Jones said the support of his family, friends and the farming community had helped him through a very dark period and that the support he had received from the FUW had been “absolutely fantastic’’.
His landlord, the National Trust, had never lost faith in him, he added.
“I do work alongside the National Trust but I am not an employee, all I am is a tenant, but they have shown faith in me throughout.’’
The FUW said it had grave concerns about the motives and methods adopted by the Council.
In a letter sent to its chief executive Iwan Davies, the union said these concerns were founded on the Council’s early demands to see confidential paperwork that appeared to be of no relevance to the investigation and “an increasingly aggressive approach’’.
“As matters progressed, it became clear to those who have dealt with other such cases across Wales that the Council had taken a decision to aggressively pursue Mr Jones in what has rightly been compared to a ‘witch hunt’,’’ it stated.
The decision to drop all charges against Mr Jones had been welcome, as was the judge’s emphasis that his “good name remains”, but the financial and mental impact would have a long-lasting effect on Mr Jones, his wife, son and their wider family, the union insisted.
“Such effects are the direct result of decisions taken by Conwy Borough County Council, and in light of this we believe that the council should, in addition to issuing an unreserved apology, fully compensate the family for the harm and distress caused to them, as well as meeting any legal costs they have incurred.
“In addition to such impacts for the Jones family, the approach adopted by the Council has brought it into significant disrepute, not only locally, but across the UK, with the case being reported in national newspapers.’’
It believed a full investigation into the decision to pursue the case and the methods adopted by council officials now warranted a full investigation.

A spokeswoman for the council said that as responsibility for enforcement rested with local authorities, it had a duty to investigate in this instance. 

“A prosecuting authority is also under a duty to continually review the evidence as a trial proceeds and, in this case, the council made the appropriate decision to withdraw,’’ she said.

The council would be responding directly to the FUW, she added.