North Yorkshire farmer jailed for breaching animal protection order by transporting poultry and sheep to livestock auctions

A man who persistently flouted a ten-year animal ban by transporting livestock to sales has been jailed following tip-offs from other farmers.

Nunwick farmer Michael Hawkswell
Nunwick farmer Michael Hawkswell

Michael Hawkswell, from Nunwick near Ripon, was caught by police on six occasions breaching a court order issued in 2019 to prevent harm or suffering to animals.

Following an investigation by North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, Hawkswell appeared at York Magistrates Court on Wednesday, where he was sentenced to 32 weeks in prison.

In April 2019 Hawkswell was issued with an Animal Disqualification Orders. The 10-year order, under Section 34 of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, disqualified him from owning, keeping or participating in keeping any animals.

Police emptied Hawkswell's Toyota Hilux of poultry cages following his arrest

Acting on intelligence received about Hawkswell’s activities, Rural Task Force officers stopped him on the A1(M) in July 2020. In the back of his Toyota Hilux were several crates full of poultry. In total, officers found 47 hens, four geese, three guinea fowl, ten ducks and two cardboard boxes containing a dozen chicks.

Hawkswell, 45, was arrested on suspicion of breaching the order. He was subsequently charged with this breach, and two more breaches after it emerged he had also been witnessed unloading, buying and selling poultry at auctions in June.

He pleaded guilty to these three breaches in April 2021. However, he had continued to flout the order just weeks before that court appearance.

In February 2021, he was stopped by officers in his vehicle in Harrogate. He was arrested after seven sheep were found in a trailer he was towing.

A month later, he was again stopped in his vehicle just off junction 47 of the A1(M) and arrested when police found two animal cages inside his vehicle, one of which contained a live duck.

He was charged with a further breach after officers located an animal movement certificate inside his vehicle, showing he had bought two goats from a farm in October 2020.

When he appeared in court on Wednesday, he was sentenced for all six breaches, in addition to an existing suspended sentence - a total of 32 weeks in prison.

He was also disqualified from keeping poultry, sheep and goats until 2031 and disqualified from driving for 68 weeks.

PC Mark Atkinson, of North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force, said: “Michael Hawkswell knew full well that he wasn’t allowed to have anything to do with animals - with a court order in place to protect them from suffering at his hands.

“However, he has repeatedly shown a blatant disregard for that court order, and persistently breached it on a number of occasions.

“Members of the farming community were aware of Hawkswell’s illegal activity, and came forward with crucial information, allowing us to arrest him and put him before the court. I would like to thank everyone who has spoken to the police in relation to Hawkswell’s activities - your assistance has been so vital and helped our team to put the strongest case together.

“We would urge anyone who has any information about animal welfare offences, or breaches of court orders, to contact North Yorkshire Police on 101, or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Even the smallest piece of information could be vital in building up a picture and bringing offenders to justice.”

The RSPCA's Geoff Edmond highlighted the close partnership working between the charity and North Yorkshire Police officers in dealing with animal welfare and wildlife crime matters.

He said: “I would like to thank the Rural Task Force for their continued and concerted efforts to tackle serious breaches of animal welfare legislation, as has occurred here. This is a persistent offender who has continued to ignore his Animal Disqualification Order issued by the court, showing total disregard for this whilst continuing to be involved in the care of livestock.

“The vigilance of the community and swift response of the officers means this offender has been brought to justice again.”

In light of Hawkswell’s offending, North Yorkshire Police’s Rural Task Force will distribute posters highlighting his banning order at livestock marts and other rural businesses.

Nunwick was previously jailed in 2003 for his part in the killing of 10 goats in an unlicensed slaughter operation.