A former Cambridgeshire farmer – who went on the run for six months after failing to appear for sentencing for fraud that cost his victims £456,386 – has been jailed. On Tuesday, Ipswich Crown Court sentenced Wayne Parker, 36, previously of Mildenhall, to a total of five years in prison.
Parker’s sentence arises from successful convictions by both Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards for animal welfare and disease control offences, and by Suffolk Trading Standards for fraud. The sentencing comprised a 10-month custodial sentence for the animal welfare and disease control offences, a 2-month custodial sentence for failing to surrender to his bail and a 4-year custodial sentence for fraud.
In the prosecution led by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards, Parker pleaded guilty to 19 offences at Peterborough Crown Court in October 2022 relating to animal welfare, failure to dispose of carcases and failure to keep records for disease control purposes.
Parker had previously received a suspended sentence when convicted by Suffolk Trading Standards in February 2020 for similar offences, and a subsequent un-related prosecution by Suffolk Trading Standards for fraud in October 2022.
A livestock farmer, with the bulk of his farming business comprising grazing sheep for Welsh farmers, Parker hired grazing land for short periods of time, frequently moving the animals. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards started to investigate welfare complaints when Parker moved livestock to the Newmarket area.
Officers visited various sites in Cambridgeshire, including locations in Burrough Green and Kirtling, and found extensive suffering, with animals hungry, a large number infected. Despite extensive advice, little improvement was made and a month later formal legal notices were served. However, the suffering continued, and during subsequent visits, animals were found without water or sufficient food, and with untreated infections.
Parker was also issued with a lifetime disqualification order preventing him from owning animals, keeping animals, participating in the keeping of animals and from being party to an arrangement under which he is entitled to control or influence the way in which animals are kept.
Ipswich Crown Court was told how Parker obtained credit from multiple suppliers after maintaining that he had a successful sheep and cattle business. While most of the credit was used to fund his farming business, Wayne Parker Farming, he also lived a lavish lifestyle beyond his means, buying a Range Rover and other luxury purchases on finance.
When chased for payment of his debts Parker denied all knowledge of receiving invoices and resorted to other delaying tactics, such as writing cheques from closed bank accounts with no funds. He admitted in court to lying to his suppliers but claimed he had sought to consolidate his debts with a company specialising in loans for bankrupt farmers, despite there being no evidence to support this.
Ipswich Crown Court subsequently found Parker guilty of fraudulent trading between February 2018 and May 2020 at a hearing in October 2022. An arrest warrant was issued when he failed to appear in court for sentencing in February 2023.
While on the run Parker used hire cars in a bid to avoid detection, moving around the west and south of England. Parker was finally caught at a service station near Basingstoke, Hampshire, on August 31 while driving his own vehicle when its registration plate triggered an alert in a passing police car.
Judge Nicola Talbot-Hadley told Parker: “Some of the deals you entered into were clearly going to make a loss and you should have been aware of that. You then got yourself into a web of deception, making false promises to pay, reassuring people that money would be forthcoming once you had secured some other business transaction, but it was all based upon fiction and lies.
“To some individuals you made partial payment of monies owed, but for many others a large debt remained outstanding. A common thread across all of those individuals was a series of broken promises, endless assurances that payment would be made in time, that monies were on their way, then followed by various dishonest excuses as to why payment was not forthcoming.”
Jacqui Harvey, head of operations environmental health, licensing and trading standards at Cambridgeshire County Council said “The level of suffering endured by the animals in Parker’s care is unimaginable and the gravity of these offences has been reflected by the court in his sentencing.
“The welfare offences relate to failing to provide the fundamental basics for sustaining life – provision of food, water, shelter, and veterinary care. Despite the issuing of legal notices by our officers, Parker persistently failed to provide these basics.”
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