Lancashire

Preston free range egg fraud farmer to pay back £500,000

Eggs Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Clarkson made a "significant profit" buying barn eggs and selling them as free range eggs for £1 a dozen

A farmer who deliberately mislabelled barn eggs as pricier free range ones must pay back his £500,000 profits.

Anthony Clarkson, 62, of Back Lane, Whittingham, Lancashire, was jailed for 30 months at Preston Crown Court in 2016 for fraudulently selling the eggs.

Judges at London's Appeal Court on Wednesday upheld an earlier ruling that he should pay back £505,381.

Rachel Cooper, representing Clarkson, had argued the sum should be significantly lower.

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 for £1.

Ms Cooper said Clarkson should have only been ordered to pay back £133,111.35 - a figure based on the difference in price between the barn and free range eggs.

'Fraudulent' enterprise

She claimed the "difference between the barn eggs and the free range eggs was essentially an intellectual one".

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 the eggs, "in practical terms the difference is so small" so it would be 'disproportionate' for Clarkson to have to pay back the full £505,381, said Ms Cooper.

But Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, sitting with two other judges, disagreed and said accounting for his expense of buying the barn eggs would lend a "measure of legitimacy" to his "fraudulent" enterprise.

"It was a specific quality of egg, laid by a chicken which lived in identified conditions, for which they were paying a higher price," she said, as she refused the application.

"What they received was not what they paid for."

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