Inspectors found unlicensed animal remedies in a box “hidden” under a horse rug during a search of trainer Philip Fenton’s premises, a court has heard.
The trial of Mr Fenton (49) of Garryduff, South Lodge, Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary, got under way this morning and is expected to last for the rest of the day.
He denies eight charges relating to the alleged possession of unlicensed animal remedies, including anabolic steroids, during an unannounced inspection of his yard on January 18 of 2012.
Department of Agriculture investigative officer Brendan Daly told Carrick district court today that he and a colleague searched the premises on that date and found a box “containing veterinary medicines” under a horse rug, in a shed close to Mr Fenton’s medicine store.
The trainer “conceded” that he owned the box, Mr Daly said, and when asked why it was hidden under the rug, “he said it was to lessen the effects of the inspection”.
His vet was the supplier, Mr Fenton told the inspectors.
They returned to the yard on February 14 of 2012 and interviewed Philip Fenton under caution, placing the products seized on January 18 on the table. Mr Fenton accepted responsibility for the products in that interview and said he told an employee, Denise Power, to hide them at the time.
Among the products was 1kg of Nitrotain paste and a 25ml bottle of Illium Stanabolic, both anabolic steroids.
Mr Daly told the court that, after the inspection and a visit to Mr Fenton’s vet’s office, he stored the products in a “secure lock-up” at his home until they interviewed the trainer in February.
He submitted the products to the state laboratories for analysis on May 16 of 2012.
Under cross-examination from defence barrister Johnny Walshe, the witness said he affixed labels to the products seized at the yard on March 6 of 2012. They didn’t record what they had found in an official exhibit book, but took a note of all of the items, he said.
Mr Walshe put it to Mr Daly that it was “totally unacceptable practice” but Mr Daly said he had “no doubt” about what was in the box found at the yard. “Mr Fenton was aware of what was seized on the day and he confirmed that in the interview.”
Neither he or his colleague on the day prepared a hand-written list of the products before they left the yard because his colleague had just received word of a family bereavement and they had to leave after the inspection, Mr Daly said.
They didn’t ask Mr Fenton to sign anything confirming what was found, he said under questioning, but the trainer was “made verbally aware” of the products seized. “He had ample opportunity to look in the box.”
Mr Walshe put it to the witness that these matters were “in breach of protocol” and “in breach of Mr Fenton’s rights”. This wasn’t accepted.
Another investigative officer with the Department of Agriculture, Noel Kelly, said he accompanied Brendan Daly at the time of the January 18 inspection.
He felt Philip Fenton was “stalling” him and “delaying” him as they walked across the yard towards the medicine store.
An inspection of the medicine store led to him finding anabolic steroids, Mr Kelly told the court.
The trial continues this afternoon before Judge Timothy Lucey.