BOSSES at Gisburn Auction Mart has been cleared of causing unnecessary suffering to a sheep after an appeal.

Trading Standards in Lancashire had prosecuted the livestock market over an incident where an animal suffered a broken back, while it was being penned.

Blackburn magistrates convicted the company after a trial last October and fined it £6,500 with £6,000 costs.

But the firm, which insisted it had puts its faith in an experienced foreman, lodged an appeal with Preston Crown Court.

Recorder Carwyn Cox, sitting with magistrates, allowed the appeal over the December 2016 allegation, after a one-day hearing.

The magistrates court hearing was told that the firm’s yard foreman, Christopher Raw, had admitted responsibility for the injury and he had been prosecuted in April for his role in the incident.

He was made subject to a curfew for three months and ordered to pay £1,000 costs.

Mr Raw was said to have been told by two directors to monitor the sheep, after he initially reported the injury.

When the animal’s plight was highlighted the next day, the animal was shot to end its suffering, the court heard.

Ros Scott-Bell, for Gisburn Auction Mart, questioned the credibility of Mr Raw as a witness during the proceedings.

Two company directors also testified that they believed the yard foreman had the experience and qualifications necessary to deal with the situation.

Speaking after the hearing Richard Turner, the secretary and auctioneer at Gisburn Auction Mart, said: “The appeal was allowed because it was found that the company and its directors relied on the experience and qualifications of Christopher Raw as yard foreman and the company and directors could not have reasonably been expected to do any more.”

He confirmed that a subsequent internal investigation had found that the injury to the sheep was more serious than Mr Raw had first reported.

The previous hearing was told that the prosecution had placed the company in a ‘difficult and embarrassing’ situation as they prided themselves on their animal handling skills.

Ms Scot-Bell said that the Ribble Valley company had invested £500,000 in improving its facilities over the preceding year.

An external company had also been retained to provide animal welfare training to all staff, she added.

She also described Mr Raw as a “rogue employee”.