A company which acted as a licensed gangmaster, and its two directors, have been fined for breaching food hygiene and food safety regulations.
Blue Water Shellfish Supplies UK Ltd , of Caernarfon and Company Directors Carl Anthony Harmes and Brian John Faulkner were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court following an investigation by Mersey Port Health Authority about the traceability of cockles transported to destinations within the UK and Europe.
The Company was acting as agents for cockle gatherers harvesting shellfish in the Ribble Estuary off Southport between 5 November and 13 December 2012. The investigations into the nature and extent of the offending ranged as far as Spain.
The defendants originally agreed to plead guilty in October 2014. However, at the sentencing hearing in December 2014, they said they wanted to change their guilty pleas.
The applications to vacate their guilty pleas were refused by the Crown Court, following a four day hearing in August 2015. During the various hearings the defendants dispensed with two sets of barristers and attempted to run a host of arguments.
They were each charged with four offences of failing to keep copies of registration documents, tracking the movement of the shellfish on a number of occasions. The requirement for Registration Documents is established in European Commission Hygiene Regulations and apply throughout Europe.
They were each fined £900, plus £90 victim surcharge, and were also ordered to pay contributions to costs, Blue Water Shellfish Supplies UK Ltd £4,100.00, Carl Harmes £20,000 and Brian Faulkner £7,945.
Judge Graham Morrow said, “I am satisfied on the indictment that it would be an affront to justice if Blue Water Supplies UK Ltd, Mr. Harmes and Mr. Faulkner did not pay a substantial part of the costs.”
“The simple point is that the case should not have lasted as long as it did and at such cost. The defendants have brought the additional costs on themselves.”
“We appreciate that public bodies will still be significantly out of pocket by reason of their bringing these proceedings against these Defendants. That is an unfortunate consequence of the two bodies [Mersey Port Health Authority and the North West Inshore and Fisheries Conservation Authority (NWIFCA)] properly exercising their important regulatory functions. If it is any consolation to Liverpool City Council, these proceedings may have assisted in clarifying the law.”