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IN THE DONCASTER MAGISTRATES’ COURT
Chesterfield Poultry Limited
SKELETON ARGUMENT ON BEHALF OF THE PROSECUTION
- This skeleton argument is written to prove that the prosecution had not broken any laws and should, therefore, be allowed to prosecute the defendant, Chesterfield Poultry Limited.
- The prosecution had reasons not to take immediate legal action in March 2017. Therefore, the action was undertaken within the required time limit.
- Section 31 of those regulations provides for a statutory time limit to bring proceedings and section 31(2) provides that a valid certificate signed by the prosecutor stating the date on which sufficient evidence to bring proceedings came to the prosecutor’s knowledge, is conclusive evidence of that fact.
- It is the prosecution’s belief that the proceedings were undertaken according to the provisions of Section 31 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
- The facts:
- The defendant faces four charges related to the events on the 13th of September 2016, which occurred at the slaughterhouse belonging to the defendant.
- The proceedings have been started due to evidence proving that over 5,000 chickens died as a result of the defendant’s gross negligence.
- The events were investigated by Alan Stead, an investigator with the FSA.
- The defendant was subsequently invited to attend an interview under caution on the 28th of February 2017.
- The defendant took two months to respond and provided the FSA with a written statement under caution, which was dated 8th of May 2017.
- The prosecution asked FSA for “clarity and further evidence” on 24th of July 2017 and only received a response three weeks later.
- On 30th of August 2017, the prosecution asked FSA one more time for further evidence, asking for a statement from Karin Szwiec (the OV at the slaughterhouse on the day of the tragic events, who is the primary witness in the investigation).
- A draft statement was submitted on 18th of October 2017.
- The final statement from Karin Szwiec was received on the 22nd of October 2017.
- The prosecution issued a statement confirming that they obtained enough evidence to start proceedings on the 8th of November 2017.
- The charges were laid before the magistrates’ court on the 5th of January 2018.
- The charges were laid before the magistrates’ court within the required 6-month time limit.
- Section 31 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006 states clearly that:
- Proceedings against the defendant can be undertaken within 3 years of the event taking place.
- Proceedings can be undertaken within 6 months from the date the prosecution received enough evidence to start proceedings.
- The conclusive evidence, of when the prosecution received enough evidence to start proceedings, is the certificate signed by or on behalf of the prosecutor.
- The aforementioned certificate shall be treated as conclusive evidence, unless there is evidence proving otherwise.
- The defence claims that the prosecution had enough evidence to start proceedings in March 2017. At that time, however, even the FSA had not yet received a statement from the defendant. This statement was only received on the 8th of May 2017, over two months later.
- This statement was not enough to start proceedings. It was the prosecution’s belief that such proceedings could only be undertaken after receiving a statement from Karin Szwiec. Ms Szwiec was the OV on duty, on the day of the events (13th of September 2016). She was, therefore, an eye witness to the breach of law occurring on that day. According to the prosecution, her statement was essential for the proceedings.
- The prosecution had to ask the FSA for this statement twice – on the 24th of July 2017 and on the 30th of August 2017. The statement was not provided immediately. The prosecution only received the final statement from Ms Szwiec on the 22nd of October 2017.
- Having obtained the essential statement from the eye-witness to the crime, the prosecution decided that it had finally obtained enough evidence to start proceedings. The certificate was issued on the 8th of November and the charges were laid before the magistrates’ court on the 5th of January 2018.
- The prosecution took only 3 months to lay the charges before the magistrates’ court fro the date they obtained enough evidence. This is within the limit of 6 moths set by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 31.
- The charges relate to the events occurring on the 13th of September 2016. The charges were laid on the 5th of January 2018. This is within the 3-year limit also set by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, section 31.
- The certificate issued by the prosecutor is the conclusive evidence of the date of obtaining enough evidence to prosecute, as stated in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 c.45. This certificate may be dismissed only when evidence is presented to prove the certificate wrong. No such evidence has been put forward by the defence. Therefore, the illegitimacy of the certificate is believed to be a mere speculation.
- Considering the facts stated above and their cross-examination with the section 31 of The Animal Welfare Act 2006, it is the prosecution’s belief that no clause of the Act related to time limit of proceedings had been breached.
15.The prosecution had good reasons for not starting proceedings in March 2017 – they were missing the statement from the key eye-witness, Ms Szwiec. Obtaining this crucial evidence from the FSA was not straightforward.
16.The FSA only supplied the evidence after having been asked for it twice, and waiting another 7 weeks to provide it. The fault for the delay lies within the FSA and not with the prosecution.
- The proceedings against Chesterfield Poultry Limited shall not be time-barred and the prosecution shall be allowed to prosecute the defendant for their actions.