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Court orders egg farmer to repay £500K for mislabelling

A Preston farmer who mislabelled barn eggs as pricier free-range ones will have to pay back every penny of his £500,000 ill-gotten gains.

Anthony Clarkson, 62, of Back Lane, Whittingham, received a 30 month jail sentence at Preston Crown Court in May 2016.

Pay fine of 5 years imprisonment

Clarkson was ordered to pay back £505,381 at a confiscation hearing last September or face 5 years imprisonment.

He has been convicted of 2 counts of fraud, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies told London’s Appeal Court last week (20 June).

The egg producer and wholesaler made a “significant profit”, having bought barn eggs at 58p to 85p a dozen and sold them as free-range at £1 a dozen.

Anthony Clarkson, 62, of Back Lane, Whittingham, received a 30 month jail sentence at Preston Crown Court in May 2016. Photo: Bruce Adams / Daily Mail/bruce Adams/REX/Shutterstock
Anthony Clarkson, 62, of Back Lane, Whittingham, received a 30 month jail sentence at Preston Crown Court in May 2016. Photo: Bruce Adams / Daily Mail/bruce Adams/REX/Shutterstock

Defence claimed fine was too high

Rachel Cooper, for Clarkson, argued that the amount he should have been ordered to pay back was much smaller.

It should have been £133,111.35 – a figure based on the difference in price between the barn and free range eggs.

Difference between barn and free-range eggs so small

“In reality, the only difference between the barn eggs and the free-range eggs was essentially an intellectual one,” the barrister claimed.

Free-range eggs may originate from chickens which live in the same barns but have access for a minimum number of hours to the outside, the court heard.

While in law a distinction is made between barn and free-range eggs, “in practical terms the difference is so small,” said Ms Cooper.

The product obtained by the purchaser was “so similar” to a free-range egg it would be “disproportionate” for Clarkson to have to pay back the full £505,381.

Consumers did not get what they paid for

But Mrs Justice Davies, who was sitting with 2 other judges, said: “The court agrees with the approach taken by the judge.

“Clarkson’s benefit should be that he received as the result of committing his fraud.”

To account for his expense of buying the barn eggs would lend a “measure of legitimacy” to his “fraudulent” enterprise, the judge added.

“It was a specific quality of egg, laid by a chicken which lived in identified conditions, for which they were paying a higher price.

“What they received was not what they paid for,” added the judge, who concluded: “This application is refused.”

Court reporter for Poultry World (UK)

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