Auction mart manager fined £2,000 for possessing unauthorised animal drugs

Darlington and Stockton Times: Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court Newton Aycliffe Magistrates' Court

THE manager of an auction mart had bottles of a counterfeit drug "potentially fatal to both animals and humans" in the boot of her car, a court heard.

An inspector from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) found 19 sealed bottles suspected to contain Micotil in the car of Ruth Elizabeth Bell at Barnard Castle Auction Mart in Teesdale, County Durham.

The prescribed animal antibiotic must only be administered by a qualified vet, Newton Aycliffe magistrates heard yesterday (Friday, December 13).

David Medd, for DEFRA, said an inspector visited after a tip off that Bell, an auctioneer and mart manager, had arranged to sell a bottle of the drug to a man in the car park on November 30, 2011.

Tests revealed the bottles contained a counterfeit version of the drug, with differing levels of the main ingredient Tilmicosin, a cardio-toxic "potentially fatal to both animals and humans".

He added once the drug, used to treat pneumonia and other illnesses in cattle and sheep, is administered there must be a withdrawal period prior to slaughter - something which could be overlooked if farmers administered the drug themselves.

"The real concern here is if products of this nature end up in a human food supply," Mr Medd added.

Bell, 42, of Nether Welton, near Carlisle, Cumbria, admitted possessing an unauthorised veterinary medical product.

She refused to tell the inspector where she got the drugs from, saying she did not want to "dob anyone in", the court heard.

Clive Booth, mitigating, said DEFRA had opposed the European Commission when it decided to make Micotil an authorised-only drug.

He said Bell accepted she had broken the law and was both embarrassed and full of remorse.

In a letter to the court, the mart's directors said they had full faith in Bell, who has worked for them for five years and half years.

It said they refused her resignation, describing it as an isolated incident and also praised her "integrity and professionalism", especially for the way she turned around the fortunes of the auction mart in St John's Chapel, Weardale.

Magistrates said the thought of the drug possibly ending up in the food supply was "spine tingling" and had considered jailing her.

Instead, she was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay a £200 victim surcharge plus £85 costs.

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