SHOCKING scenes of 350 dead and dying animals met RSPCA officers as they inspected a tenant farmers land in a case one inspector said was the worst he had ever seen.

James Linsley was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison after he admitted causing unnecessary suffering to 53 sheep, four cows, ten horses and a dog and two charges of neglect involving 300 sheep, 17 horses, four cows and a dog.

Judge Adrian Lower, sitting at Northallerton Magistrates Court, was told the case had cost more than £100,000 in vet, investigation and prosecution costs.

Live animals were found knee deep in faeces alongside dead animals, with a collie dog living off the carcass of a dead horse on the land at Woodside Farm, West Layton, near Scotch Corner which was farmed by Linsley from Boldron, Barnard Castle.

RSPCA Chief Inspector Mark Gent said: "It was the worst case I have seen because of the sheer number of animals involved. I am really pleased with the result, it shows how seriously the court takes these offences.

"He is a farmer, he is doing it for profit and he hasn’t looked after the welfare of these animals."

He added: “It was horrendous, the RSPCA were there for a week. There were dead and dying animals all over the place, some of this suffering had been going on for months. They were not given the food they should have been given."

Mitigating, Simon Walker said Linsley was faced with a “perfect storm” as the offences happened during the coldest, longest winter in living memory in 2012/13.

He said: "This whole event was without precedent. Medication and food was on the farm, he just couldn’t get it into the animals quickly enough. He is guilty by omission rather than commission.

"He is a proud man , it is fair to say to some extent he does feel like a victim.

“He is a young farmer trying to establish himself in an extraordinarily difficult and unforgiving industry. "

Mr Walker said his client had lost Woodside farm and was now on a smaller one. He had been allowed to keep many of the sheep and successfully farmed this year, selling 1,500 lambs.

The RSPCA applied for a disqualification order banning Linsley from keeping animals, but Mr Walker asked the Judge to allow him to carry on farming sheep.

Judge Lower told Linsley: “The scenes officers were met with were truly shocking. The weather was poor but it didn’t mean it was impossible for you to attend to the needs of the animals, other farmers were dealing with them.

"All of this came about because of your stubbornness and pride, you must have been aware the situation had become too difficult for you. It was a truly atrocious situation.”

Linsley was disqualified from keeping cows and horses for ten years but was not disqualified from owning and managing sheep. An application for bail pending an appeal was dismissed by the judge.