A Ribble Valley man who stole sheep worth almost £6,000 from a Peak District farm has been jailed for 18 weeks.
Andrew Piner (49), of Mill Lane, Gisburn, had denied theft, but was found guilty after a trial at High Peak Magistrates’ Court.
During the trial, prosecutor Jennifer Fitzgerald told the court Peak District farmer David Robinson advertised 49 sheep for sale in The Farmer’s Guardian in September 2013. A potential buyer arranged to view the sheep on September 17th, 2013, and then agreed to buy the animals for £5,635.
Mr Robinson said he was not prepared to let the sheep be collected until the cheque had cleared, which it failed to do as the account it related to had been closed. But when he went to his property – North Lees Farm, Hathersage – on September 19th, he noticed the sheep were gone.
Mr Robinson then placed another advert in The Farmer’s Guardian and received several phone calls naming Piner as the person who took the sheep. Police were informed and checks discovered 34 of the missing sheep were on a farm in Clitheroe, where Piner was the manager. His vehicle and mobile phone were also recorded as being in Derbyshire on the day of the offence.
In interview, Piner denied having any involvement in the theft. During his trial, he said he had acted on behalf of his employer in buying the sheep, and no dishonesty was intended, but his employer disputed this.
The prosecutor added that, in January 2013, Piner had been convicted of four offences of fraud and sentenced to five weeks in prison, suspended for two years, so the Hathersage offence put him in breach of that suspended sentence.
None of the sheep have been recovered, the court heard, but Mr Robinson was able to claim on his insurance for them, after paying an excess of £1,000.
Representing himself in court, Piner said: “I’m sorry for everything that’s gone on. I had a lot of problems and I just regret what happened really.”
Chairman of the Bench Eric Hilton said: “This offence was a high-value theft. It has been aggravated by your long record of previous dishonesty offences. This was also committed while you were on a suspended sentence order, so therefore we find the theft is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.”
He was also given a further week’s imprisonment for the breach of the suspended sentence order, to run concurrently, and he must pay an £80 surcharge.