By Gordon Deegan

A west Clare farmer has lost out on around €20,000 in farm grants due to a Department of Agriculture investigation into breaches when his farm holding was under Tuberculosis (TB) ‘lock-down’.

That is according to the solicitor for 51-year-old Hallam Studdert, who told Ennis District Court that her client has already suffered a severe financial penalty as a result of the breaches of TB regulations.

The department put Studdert’s 100ac farm at Drumehily, Cree under ‘lockdown’ after a case of TB was found in his herd in July 2018.

At Ennis District Court, Judge Patrick Durcan stated that it was a very serious case as containing infectious diseases such as TB “is essential to the integrity of the national herd”.

Seriousness of TB

Judge Durcan stated: “These are very disturbing cases in rural areas for everyone and they create their own tensions.”

The judge stated that Studdert was on notice that “lockdown, lock-in and lock-out pertained to this holding and that didn’t happen”.

Studdert pleaded guilty to 18 sample breaches of TB regulations where, over the period from November 2018 to July 2019, he allowed 18 cattle move on and off his farm holding.

Judge Durcan stated that in such cases “the penalties should be serious and a reminder to members of the farming community to not breach such regulations as breaches affect an entire nation“.

Court outcome

The judge stated that he was imposing a fine of €600 on one ‘wraparound’ count adding that the fine “is unusually low”.

He stated that this is the case as Studdert has already suffered huge financial penalties where he has lost out on various grants; has co-operated fully with the Department of Agriculture; has no previous convictions, that he farms ‘bad land’ and is in very poor financial circumstances.

Judge Durcan stated:

He has adopted a very Christian approach to his community and family. He is a good man.

The judge added that he has received a testimonial from a former Clare Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) chairperson, who described the married father-of-two as a very hard working man and a respected member of the agricultural community.

Judge Durcan also commended the stance taken by the department which did not seek costs from Studdert from its ‘complex’ investigation into the case, which involved interviewing neighbours.

Other farms restricted

Now retired area veterinary superintendent with the Department of Agriculture, Declan Holmes stated that because of the animals moving to and from the Studdert farm, restrictions were put on other holdings before they all received the all-clear.

Holmes stated that animals from the Studdert holding were found on four other farms and that all restrictions were lifted on the Studdert farm in April of this year.

During the period of the offences, Holmes told the court that 11 heifers were moved into a nearby farm and Hallam Studdert stated that they were moved to keep them away from the bull on his lands.

Holmes added that Studdert told the department that two of the animals strayed onto his farm while another two were left there by another farmer before taking them to the meat factory without informing Studdert.

“I do have difficulty accepting that the animals strayed but we do accept that the other party left them there without Mr. Studdert’s knowledge,” Holmes said.

Defence counsel

Solicitor for Studdert, Mairead Doyle told the court that Studdert has a suckler herd and he does some dealing in buying and selling cattle.

She stated that where a herd of a farmer contracts TB, “it is one of the worst things that can happen to a farmer”.

Mr. Studdert is not making a lot of money from farming and his financial position is not good.

The solicitor stated that the 11 heifers in question didn’t come into contact with any other animals.

Doyle stated that her client “is a somewhat vulnerable individual, he is a very simple man trying to make a living from his farm”.

Declan Holmes added that Studdert “is easily led”.

He stated: “I would say there are other people who used his good nature to buy cattle and he is the kind to help out others and he was holding onto cattle when he shouldn’t have.”