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Cattle dealer duped farming family into buying 'poor quality' stock


Judges Gavel

Judges Gavel

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Judges Gavel

A Northern Ireland cattle dealer who duped a farming family into buying poor quality animals walked free from court this week when his three-month jail term was suspended for two years. 

Dungannon Magistrates Court also heard that 56-year-old David Lee is set to lodge an appeal to fight to clear his name of fraud. 

District Judge John Meehan told the fraudster he had treated his victims and farming regulations "with complete disregard".

Last month Lee, from the Carrickaness Road, was warned he was "on the knife edge" of custody when DJ Meehan adjourned the case to allow him time to find restitution for his victim. 

This week, the court heard the £6,000 (€6,800) restitution is with Lee's solicitor but payment has been postponed as Lee intends to fight to clear his name of the fraud convictions. 

In addition, Judge Meehan also fined Lee £2,000 (€2,300). 

Lee had earlier pleaded guilty to 14 offences of failing to notify the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) of cattle movement and following a part heard contest, was convicted of three other offences of fraud by falsely representing that two calves he sold to Patrick McGorrey had only been moved twice, providing a false statement to the DARD and failing to keep a herd register, all committed between May 25 and October 8, 2015. 

Describing how the McGorry family were left "swimming on their own" after they unsuspectingly bought poor quality cattle from Lee in 2015, Judge Meehan previously said that not only had they been left out of pocket with ongoing vet bills but Lee had also run rough shod over the rules and regulations of cattle movement. 

Recounting the facts, the judge described how the offences arose as a result of dealings Lee had with the McGorrey family.

Mr McGorrey snr, a man in his 70s, agreed to buy two calves having been assured specifically they had only been moved twice.

But when Lee came to deliver the animals, he had six cattle with him so the family "felt deposed to purchase" them as well, and even though it was dark and the animals couldn't be properly inspected, they handed around £4,000 to Lee.

In any event Lee told them if there was any problems, he would take them back, but then ignored their calls when it transpired there were numerous medical problems with the cattle and the two calves had been moved more than twice.

Describing Lee's evidence as "unreliable," Judge Meehan said during his testimony he "didn't answer questions, raised red herrings and didn't address the issues at all."

Highlighting that fact, in relation to Lee failing to keep a herd register, the judge described how DARD inspectors found 40 animals were missing from Lee's farm, so he claimed they had been lost or stolen.

Further investigations revealed however that he had in fact sold eight of them to a woman which as the judge put it, "out sought embarrassment in a man who is probably difficult to embarrass in any way."

While defence barrister Blaine Nugent tried to suggest Lee's record keeping had been "shambolic," Judge Meehan was scathingly critical of Lee, who had breached the "proper system of verification and traceability".

Mr Nugent also suggested that father-of-six Lee had stayed out of trouble for a number of years.

But as the judge revealed, he had numerous offences, with a criminal record dating from 1976 including animal cruelty, dishonesty offences, harassment and motoring offences.

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