Council urged to come clean on costs of collapsed legal case27/4/2004An Assembly Member has called on a Welsh council to come clean about the cost of a legal case that took two years to reach court and could have cost the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Tonight, BBC Wales current affairs programme Taro Naw featured interviews in which the Ceredigion men involved in the case claim their lives have been devastated by the whole episode.
It follows the collapse of a high-profile conspiracy case, where Ceredigion Council thought that it had uncovered a huge conspiracy to sell illegally slaughtered and unfit meat to the public.
Ceredigion Council charged Peter Maguigan, Colin Patterson and a third defendant who cannot be named, with conspiring to supply unfit meat to the public following a raid on a premises near Aberystwyth in 2002. The local council had argued that the meat found at Ty'n Parc had been slaughtered illegally and was unfit for human consumption. When the case came to Swansea Crown Court two years later, in February 2004, it came to light that the council had been in possession of documents proving that the meat had been legally slaughtered at Oriel Jones' abattoir. In addition, a report for the defence by Mr Stephen Lomax, a vet who is also a barrister, declared the meat perfectly fit for human consumption. Peter Magugian, a senior meat hygiene inspector, remains suspended from his work despite having his name cleared in court. The owner of the meat Collin Patterson, from Ffostrasol in Ceredigion, speaks for the first time about the effect the case has had on his meat-trading business. Since recording his interview for the programme he has emigrated to Buenos Aires to work in the meat industry. "They have affected my business because of what they've been saying to people in London, and that's why I want to move," he says. "I've had enough here. I haven't got the heart to do this business now in this country so that's why I'm going out to work in Buenos Aires. "I lost a lot of business and I lost a lot of money because I was going to London to collect the money. "When I went there, they were saying, 'We're not paying you because your meat hasn't been killed in a proper place', all because what the police had told them." Former Ceredigion County Councillor Dafydd Raw-Rees, who rented out Ty'n Parc, the premises where the meat was being stored, also speaks to the programme. He was arrested as part of the investigation but never charged. Mr Raw-Rees tells the programme that he has suffered from depression and faces financial ruin due to the adverse publicity created by the investigation. "I was being portrayed in a very bad light," he tells Taro Naw. "It would be true to say that this has destroyed the business I had... The effect on the public who bought the food was terrible and everyone I dealt with was suspicious of what I had to sell. "Faith in what you eat is all important; once that faith is rocked it's very difficult for anyone to change their opinion. They think what they want to think, and most people want to believe the worst." When the case went to Swansea Crown Court in February, the defendants were cleared after the prosecution decided to abandon the case. The council has stood by its decision to investigate, stating that "the allegations were in connection with serious criminal conduct which had the potential to cause significant harm to public health and the meat industry". Now the Conservative Assembly Member Glyn Davies has called on Ceredigion County Council to come clean about the cost of the case to taxpayers, which could run into hundreds of thousands.