Farming News - '£1 farmer' speaks of hell failed court case put him through
'£1 farmer' speaks of hell failed court case put him through
The farmer whose life was turned upside down by a failed prosecution said the ordeal has brought to the brink of financial ruin.
Dan Jones told North Wales Live that he's had to borrow £50,000 from his family to fund his legal defence, and has also been forced to sell 300 of his sheep and even some of his farm machinery.
But most of the charges were dropped on Friday and prosecutors said it wouldn't be in the public interest to pursue the remaining two.
The married father-of-one said the strain of the last year and a half has taken a terrible toll on him and his family.
He said: "I haven’t slept properly in 17 months, as the situation has been on my mind 24/7.
"I was terrified I'd lose absolutely everything I’ve been working towards since leaving school.
"The lowest point was probably when the letter from the prosecution arrived, with 20 charges on it.
"I looked at the charges and worked out the maximum sentence I could be given for each, and realised I was potentially looking at years in prison, and the very real fear that I wouldn't see my 11-year-old son growing up into a man.
Mr Jones had denied failing to dispose of three sheep carcasses, failing to keep a register of animal movements and nine offences of failing to notify the authorities of animals he had received between 2016, when he took over the tenancy, and 2018.
Trading standards officers investigated following a complaint made my one member of the public. Dropping the case, prosecuting barrister John Wyn Williams said there was no reasonable prospect of convicting Mr Jones on the charges involving the movement of animals.
When the case was dropped District judge Gwyn Jones told Mr Jones: "Your good name remains."
Mr Jones added: "I felt guilty for the stress it had caused to my wife and little boy, and to my parents and extended family.
"The nightmare will continue in some way as I have borrowed £50,000 from my family to fund my legal fees, and have had to also sell 300 sheep and sell some farm machinery.
"Conwy Council will not have to pay for my legal costs, I'll just get 10% back from central funds so I suppose the rest of the money I'll have to pay back will be like paying a mortgage for the rest of my life."
Mr Jones, who said he's taking medication to help his mental health, said the support he has received from the local community has helped him cope through the prolonged ordeal.
He said: "The National Trust have been incredibly supportive, as has the Farmers Union of Wales, who knew how down I was and who used to phone me on a weekly basis to check on me.
Great Orme farmer Daniel Jones had the case against him dropped (Image: David Powell)
"The emails, texts and phone calls I received from local people - both those who did know me and those who didn't - were such a great support and really made me feel that I wasn’t alone during what has been the most terrifying year-and-a-half of my life.
"Hearing from people who believed in me meant the world and I can’t thank them enough."
He also wanted to thank his solicitor, David Kirwan, saying: "without whom I would not be where I am today".
He added: "I would urge any other farmers facing investigation by Trading Standards to seek legal advice immediately in order to avoid finding themselves in a situation that could escalate at a terrifying pace."
Mr Jones said that following the not guilty verdict, he is now looking forward to getting back to work and completing his original plans for the farm.
He added: "I came here for 10 years to improve the habitat and conservation areas of the Great Orme and I now have seven-and-a-half years left. This whole experience has made me even more determined to finish the job I came here to do."
Aberconwy AM Janet Finch-Saunders criticised Conwy's trading standard officers for bringing the case to court.
She said: "I feel very sorry indeed about the manner in which Mr Jones has been treated and I question the sense of our local authority taking a local farmer to court in this way, only for it to fail costing our local taxpayer thousands.
"It is time that government at all levels realise just how incredibly difficult it is to run a farm and all the associated day to day issues that it brings.
"As a passionate animal lover myself, I am acutely aware that nature can take its toll on our farm animals.
"However, there does need to be some form of responsible autonomy left to those farming our very difficult terrain, in particular our uplands such as the Great Orme."