Owner of illegal slaughterhouse sentenced – UPDATED

Posted on: 23 February 2017

  • Illegal slaughterhouse raided by enforcement agencies
  • One tonne of unfit meat seized by Environmental Health Officers
  • Photos reveal ‘filthy’ conditions
  • Nearly 4000 animals illegally butchered over 5 year period
  • Hundreds of farmers used illegal slaughterhouse
  • Court orders slaughterhouse operative to repay £40,000 profit
  • Prohibition Order bans operative from running any food business  

Mid Devon District Council welcomed Tuesday’s successful prosecution of a slaughterhouse operative from Tiverton.  Matthew Broom was sentenced at Exeter Crown Court to 8 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 180 hours unpaid community work, for running the illegal slaughterhouse.  The case, prosecuted by Mid Devon District Council, is a significant landmark for the Council in the successful use of the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the £40,000 profit accumulated by the business.

In sentencing Broom for 16 offences under Food Hygiene Regulations his Honour, Assistant Judge Advocate General Large, told him “You were slaughtering and butchering animals in a highly unhygienic way which was likely to lead to the contamination of the meat.  The walls of your chiller were filthy and there was dried blood on every surface in the premises.  The cutting room was equipped but filthy and unhygienic.  Equipment was encrusted with meat, the block and surrounding areas were splattered with blood and there was no equipment or even hot water for you to wash your hands.  It is clear from the expert report it was far below an acceptable standard and there was a risk to health.  This was not just a breach of the requirements but of basic hygiene practices known to any household let alone to someone with your expertise and training in butchery.  You ran your business with complete disregard for hygiene or the risk to the public and you did so for considerable profit”.

The Judge rejected Broom’s claim to have no money left after stating he had gambled away £118,943.74 betting on horses, dogs and boxing.  Large amounts of cash withdrawals totalling £83,580 had been removed from Broom’s bank account in 32 days and after 166 days all £117,880 had been withdrawn after the Council initiated confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 at an earlier hearing.

Matthew Broom was jailed for eight months, suspended for two years and ordered to carry out unpaid community work for 180 hours and pay £2,000 costs to Mid Devon.  He was banned from the management of any food business and ordered to repay the £40,000 profit within 3 months or face 5 years in jail.  This money represents an estimation of what Broom is believed to have benefited from through his illegal activities and the amount of money that can be claimed from his assets.

Councillor Colin Slade, Cabinet member for Community Wellbeing, praised the professional work carried out by Environmental Health in bring the case to court and said “We welcome the sentencing yesterday and hope this acts as a major deterrent to those who think they can profit from cutting corners and jeopardising food safety.

“Mid Devon does not tolerate food crime that endangers consumers and we will take every opportunity using Proceeds of Crime Act legislation to deprive criminals of their illegal gain”.

Meat intended for human consumption must, by law, be processed through a slaughterhouse and cutting plant approved by the Food Standards Agency and if they are not, the local authority must take action.

The offences came to light after a Trading Standards Officer carrying out animal movement checks discovered, by chance, the butchery operation at Little Esworthy Farm, Templeton, Devon on the 5th November 2013.  Environmental health officers were notified and a detailed search of the farm followed after the operation was shut down.

During the search of the premises the following key areas were identified:

  1. A walk-in chiller containing 17 unstamped and unfit carcasses, in a shed.  Meat hooks for the hanging carcasses were corroded and the entrance, floors and walls of the chiller were filthy and covered in dried blood.  A roe deer still in-fur was stored next to an open bowl of sausage casings and behind exposed hanging carcasses and would be indicative of the potential for cross-contamination;
  2. Chest freezers, located in an adjacent shed, containing cuts and processed meats labelled as minced beef, stewing pork, minced lamb, breast of lamb, topside, rib of beef, fillet steak, rump steak, side of beef, shoulder pork and wrapped and labelled sausages;
  3. A lairage with four live sheep;
  4. Fresh blood running into an outside drain and blood splattered walls in a corner of the yard adjacent to the lairage where slaughtering would likely take place;
  5. A pile of rotting sheep skins in a shed;
  6. The cutting room containing a large quantity of trimmed and butchered meat and accumulated meat waste.  The cutting room was filthy and unhygienic with large amounts of animal waste piled under the heavily scored and corroded butcher’s block and spilling out behind adjacent worktops.  The floor was littered with accumulated and ground-in food waste, the walls, worktop and floor were blood splattered and in a poor state of disrepair being covered in grime, food waste and debris.  A beef carcass was in the process of being butchered.  Butchery equipment was covered in blood and animal hair and was generally dirty and corroded.  On the draining board a ‘sticking knife’, used to cut the carotid arteries, was covered in blood next to ‘skinning knives’.  Facilities for cleaning and hand washing were woefully inadequate.  Immediate outside the cutting room a dirty and blood stained bath was likely used as a ‘scalding tank’, fed by a garden hose, to help remove the hair from pigs.
  7. A waste pyre containing burnt and unburnt animal waste located in nearby woods.  A wheelbarrow and an old water tank contained a number of sheep heads, legs and other body parts adjacent to a pile of sheep fleeces.

In total, over one tonne of meat was seized and later condemned as unfit for human consumption at Exeter magistrates Court.  Some days later, a multi-agency raid followed to establish the full extent of the trade.  Investigating officers gathered evidence at the scene and police seized two shotguns and a small quantity of ammunition.  Further visits were carried out on a dozen farms in Mid Devon as ‘warranting interest’.

On the 19th of February 2015 Matthew Broom pleaded guilty to 16 Food Hygiene Offences at Exeter Crown Court.  At this stage, Mid Devon District Council made the Court aware of its intention to apply for a Confiscation Order under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a Newton Hearing followed where the Court effectively ruled £40,000 to be the ‘benefit’ amount Broom had made.  The court ordered Broom to produce a declaration of his savings and assets to show the ‘available amount’ he has to pay the confiscation order.  Delaying tactics ensued whilst Broom withdrew large sums of money from his bank accounts before finally making a declaration of his bank statements on the 15th February 2017.  The court ruled on this on the 21st February 2017 and Broom was ordered to repay £40,000 and duly sentenced.

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