4 guilty of poultry-related crimes in the U.K.

Three people are convicted of defrauding 2 Sisters Food Group while another person is fined for biosecurity breaches.

Gavel 2492011 1920 64aed8f4a6c89
qimono | Pixabay

Last week, courts in the United Kingdom (U.K.) sentenced three people to jail for poultry fraud, and fined another for breaking biosecurity rules during an outbreak of avian flu.

Conspiring to commit the fraud were Rana Dhaia (owner of Townsend Poultry), and Darren Williams and Elliot Smith (both of 2 Sisters Food Group), according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Townsend Poultry is a poultry company based in Wolverhampton in the English Midlands. Williams and Smith were employed as dispatch managers at the 2 Sisters’ processing plant in Llangefni in North Wales.

Under U.K. law, fraud is the act of gaining a dishonest advantage — often financial — over another person or entity. In this case, the fraud was against the U.K.’s leading poultry company, 2 Sisters Food Group.

An audit at 2 Sisters Food Group revealed that the two dispatch managers were supplying Townsend Poultry with chicken. This occurred despite the fact that the latter firm was not a customer of 2 Sisters, and there were no records of the deliveries.

Further investigations showed that 84 deliveries were made from 2 Sisters to Townsend, and that Williams and Smith had destroyed the delivery records. The resulting losses to 2 Sisters were estimated at GBP318,347 (US$400,000).

While Dhaia pleaded not guilty to the charges, the other two had pleaded guilty.

However, Dhaia was found guilty in court and all three defendants were sentenced to prison. For Dhaia, the term is 4 years and 3 months, while the other two each received a suspended sentence for 2 years. In addition, Williams and Smith are required to undertake 300 hours and 250 hours, respectively of unpaid work.

Commenting on the outcome and sentencing, Detective Constable David Hall of the North Wales Police Economic Crime Unit highlighted the threat to national food safety posed by such crimes.

“The offenses that took place not only cost the 2 Sisters Food Group thousands of pounds, but also could have had far-reaching implications due to traceability issues if they had not been caught,” he said.

With annual slaughterings of 525 million birds, 2 Sisters Food Group is the second largest poultry meat company in Europe, according to WATTPoultry.com’s Top Poultry Companies survey.

Unrelated to the latest convictions, 2 Sisters Food Group announced the closure of its Llangefni plant around one year ago. 

Hefty fine for biosecurity breaches at U.K. duck farm

Last week, The Scarborough News reported that one partner in a poultry farming business in northern England was handed a substantial fine relating to offences relating to animal health and food safety.

The company Mathison (Farmers) Leven rears and slaughters poultry commercially at a farm in East Yorkshire, supplying the meat under the brand “Yorkshire Ducks and Geese.”

Daniel Mathison pleaded guilty to four offenses in connection with an outbreak of avian influenza at the premises, and to operating a slaughterhouse without official authorization.

In April of 2023, a mandatory poultry housing order was in place across the U.K., and the keeping of mortality records was compulsory.

However, when making a visit to the farm to investigate a possible bird flu outbreak, officials found that Mathison's duck houses at Leven were open, and bird deaths had not been recorded.

Furthermore, the court heard, subsequent investigations found that slaughtering and meat production at the premises greatly exceeded the maximum limit. The farm had breached movement restrictions by continuing to supply a local restaurant. Lastly, the removal of old insulation from the premises during the following month represented a further breach of restrictions aimed at minimizing the spread of the bird flu virus.

During sentencing, the magistrates said Mathison's actions could have had wide reaching and serious consequences — not only for other farmers, but also for public health and the local economy. They considered that the defendant should have known what was required, and yet he carried on despite warnings.

For each of the four offenses for which he pleaded guilty, Mathison was fined GBP4,000, according to the same source. Together with surcharges and other costs, the fine totals GBP28,000, which is to be paid within 12 months.

Page 1 of 37
Next Page