Butcher cleared of rancid meat charges

A WELL-known butcher accused of selling rancid fillet steaks has been acquitted after an Ipswich court raised serious questions about the key witness against him.

A WELL-known butcher accused of selling rancid fillet steaks has been acquitted after an Ipswich court raised serious questions about the key witness against him.

George Debman was cleared of selling food that was unsafe for human consumption after a day-long trial at South East Suffolk Magistrates' Court yesterday.

The 50-year-old, who serves as a Conservative councillor on Ipswich Borough Council, was charged by his own authority after a customer bought meat from his Cliff Lane shop which was found to be off.

Prior to the trial the butcher had admitted the meat purchased from Debman Family Butchers on January 6 this year was unfit for consumption but he denied selling the steaks.

Instead he said it had been sold without his knowledge by his employee Clive Davey.

Magistrates heard evidence from Mr Davey that Mr Debman had told him to “clean up” a piece of beef that to him had looked “sticky and brown”. Mr Davey had said when he questioned whether it was fit for sale Mr Debman told him “I'm the boss and you're staff”.

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But after lengthy deliberations the magistrates found Mr Davey's evidence was unreliable as CCTV coverage showed him taking the meat from the front display rather than the back rail as he had suggested.

Mike Osbourne, chairman of the magistrates, said: “Mr Davey, as the primary prosecution witness, has been shown not to be credible due to the CCTV coverage of the sale on January 6.

“In addition the prosecution has not proved beyond reasonable doubt that you knew the fillet steak sold on January 6 2005 was unfit for consumption.”

If found guilty, Mr Debman could have faced a fine of up to £20,000 and/or a jail term of up to six-months.

During the trial Mr Debman insisted that there had been no fillet steak in the shop on the day in question as he had not bought any in since before Christmas.

His solicitor, Roger Thomson, suggested to the court that Mr Davey had brought the meat into the shop and offered it for sale without Mr Debman's knowledge.

Ian Seeley, acting for Ipswich Borough Council, insisted that there was no evidence Mr Davey had taken the meat into the shop. Mr Davey also denied the allegations against him.

Mr Debman refused to comment after his acquittal.

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