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Life ban for shepherd

PUBLISHED: 07:02 18 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:02 03 March 2010

A SHEPHERD whose emaciated sheep began dying because of lack of feed has been banned from keeping any animals for the rest of his life.

Lack of care meant more than 80 sheep kept by John Humphrey were facing unnecessary suffering or distress when seized by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

A SHEPHERD whose emaciated sheep began dying because of lack of feed has been banned from keeping any animals for the rest of his life.

Lack of care meant more than 80 sheep kept by John Humphrey were facing unnecessary suffering or distress when seized by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The animal charity has also confirmed rehabilitating the sheep has since cost it in the region of £35,000 during the 12 months the case has been waiting to be resolved.

Although the RSPCA will get back only £100 of its costs, it said the expense of the case was worthwhile to ensure the defendant never again had the right to keep animals.

Humphrey, 63, who lives in a caravan at Hepworth Hall Farm, Hepworth, near Bury St Edmunds, kept the animals at Broad Oak Park, between Elmswell and Tostock. He was recently found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to 53 sheep and distress to a further 30 when he appeared before magistrates at Sudbury.

Now, after studying sentencing reports, the court has banned him for life for keeping animals under the Protection of Animals Act, and ordered him to undertake 240 hours community service, and pay prosecution costs of £100.

Bench chairman Hugh Newman said despite warnings, the defendant had been guilty of causing his flock prolonged neglect.

The court heard that in 1996 Humphrey had been given a two-year conditional discharge for failing to look after a Greyhound dog.

William Jackson, prosecuting, said the RSPCA had been concerned for the welfare of the sheep since July 2000, and during one visit the defendant was given a 24-hour ultimatum to have them treated for sheep scab, or face prosecution. He carried out the treatment, but when the flock was visited in January, they were grazing on land stripped bar of grass, and suffering from a serious lack of nutrition.

The charity had a five-point grading system for the welfare of sheep, with 2.5 representing moderate health. More than 50 of the animals were so badly starved they reached only one point, with others only just above that level. A veterinary surgeon found one already dead, and six others died or had to be put down. Although some of the animals were suffering from scab, the infestation was not the cause of death, but lack of food.

Shona Harvey, for the accused, said Humphrey worked four days a week as a lorry driver for a Haughley company, but visited his sheep twice daily. When the RSPCA vet carried out his inspection, there were supplies of hay and sugar beet pulp for the animals.

Miss Harvey said something had obviously gone wrong, and information on scab concluded it could cause up to a 30 per cent weight loss.

Humphrey had been looking after sheep since the age of 18 and, at one time, had judged sheep classes. He was of limited resources, owing £4,000 to his bank, with a further £16,000 in private and personal debts.

She added: "The responsibility of his flock overcame him."

David Padmore, inspector for the RSPCA, welcomed the outcome of the hearing, commenting: "This has been a difficult and expensive case for us, but the outcome thoroughly justifies our efforts."


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