Date set for Gangmaster trial

Date set for Gangmaster trial
13th Jul 2011

 

NINETEEN dairy farmers and farm businesses charged with employing labour from an unlicensed gangmaster are set to go to a full criminal trial in October.

 

Preliminary legal issues were discussed by lawyers from both sides at a hearing in Swindon magistrates court (Monday, July 11).

The judge confirmed that the case warranted a full criminal trial in the week commencing  October 24.

Eighteen of the 19 defendants in the case issued not guilty pleas through their lawyers at Swindon magistrates court in May in front of District Judge Simon Cooper. A nineteenth, the University of Reading, did not issue a plea.

The case involves some of the biggest names in dairy farming, including NFU vice president Gwyn Jones, leading cattle breeders Wills Brothers, from Cornwall, and prominent suppliers of major supermarkets.

Lawyers on both sides agreed in May that  if the full trial goes ahead in October, one or more test cases will be tried in order to avoid repeating the process with all 19 defendants.

Defence lawyers selected Brian Barnett, aged 50, from near Carterton, in Oxfordshire, as an appropriate ‘test case’.

The 19 cases are all linked to a long-running investigation by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) into Wiltshire-based labour provider Marden Management.

The GLA began its investigation into the company last spring after discovering it did not have a GLA licence, as required by companies supplying labour in the farming industry. The GLA has also investigated the rates of pay received by workers supplied by Marden. Marden has not yet been prosecuted.

More than 50 farmers and organisations who hired labour from the company were questioned in the initial stages of the investigation. This was whittled down to 21 who were charged ahead of scheduled February and March hearings, which were both adjourned. Two further cases were dropped ahead of the May hearing.

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