Butchers who sold frozen chicken as fresh in 'best British' fraud - The Solihull Observer

Butchers who sold frozen chicken as fresh in 'best British' fraud

Solihull Editorial 4th Oct, 2018 Updated: 4th Oct, 2018   0

THE owner of a butcher’s shop has admitted cheating customers by falsely claiming the meat he was selling was ‘best British’ pork, beef, lamb and chicken.

The Meat Shack in Studley also mislabelled beef as Hereford and Aberdeen Angus, when it was not, and sold previously frozen chicken as fresh.

The company, its director Simon Drust, his partner Susan Mitchell, who was company secretary, and two butchers employed by them, Dominic Brown and Michael McCarron, were all prosecuted by Warwickshire County Council’s Trading Standards department.

Initially Drust (50) of St Johns Close, Studley; Mitchell (52) of the same address; McCarron (61) of Lammas Close, Solihull; Brown (55) of Goldthorne Avenue, Sheldon, Birmingham, and the Meat Shack denied various consumer protection and fraud offences.

Following their not guilty pleas, they were due to stand trial at Warwick Crown Court in January next year.

But at a pre-trial hearing at Coventry Crown Court, Tony Watkin, prosecuting on behalf of Warwickshire Trading Standards, told Deputy Judge Richard Griffith-Jones: “An agreed way of resolving the matter has been reached.”

He said the case involved the sale of falsely described and labelled meat at the Meat Shack farm shop, which is based at the Spernal Garden Centre in Alcester Road, Studley.

The company was run by Drust and his partner Mitchell, while Brown and McCarron were butchers who had worked at the shop at different times during the period covered by the charges.

Mr Watkin explained that the resolution of the case involved the company and Drust pleading guilty to certain charges and Mitchell, Brown and McCarron accepting cautions, ‘which they have done, in the course of which they have admitted consumer protection offences.’

So, at Mr Watkin’s request, the charges which had been faced by those three were allowed to lie on the court file.

Drust then pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud by making untrue or misleading claims in newspaper adverts and on the Meat Shack’s Facebook page.

The court heard that between September 2018 and February 2015 the adverts falsely claimed the shop was selling ‘All British – beef, pork, lamb and chicken.’

Drust also admitted a further charge of fraudulent trading between January and November 2016 by making misleading claims in the course of a business.

Those claims including false statements about the country of origin of meat and poultry, the breed of cow from which its beef was derived, that the pork was free-range, and failing to show whether poultry was fresh or had been frozen.

Mitchell then entered pleas of guilty on behalf of the company to fraud and a charge of ‘knowingly or recklessly engaging in commercial practices which contravened the requirements of professional diligence.’

The charges outlined that the Meat Shack had displayed banners in the shop declaring ‘Best British pork,’ Best British chicken and poultry,’ Best British beef,’ and ‘Best British lamb.’

It had also stated on labels that meat was British when it was not, exposed for sale non-British meat under the banners described above, described beef as Aberdeen Angus or Hereford when it was from a lesser breed, and had on sale previously-frozen poultry without labelling it as such.

Mr Watkin said the prosecution case was that the benefit from the dishonest trading had been the Meat Shack’s turnover of around £1million during the period covered by the charges.

And it was agreed that the available assets to be confiscated from the company was £127,690 in a bank account which had been made subject to a restraint order.

At the request of Michael Butt, for Drust, the case was adjourned for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on him, and he was granted bail by Judge Griffith-Jones with a condition that he co-operates with the probation service.

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