Honey couple's court appeal fails

A couple who were made to pay almost £100,000 for selling “Norfolk” honey that came from South America and China have failed in a court of appeal bid to have that figure slashed.

A couple who were made to pay almost £100,000 for selling “Norfolk” honey that came from South America and China have failed in a court of appeal bid to have that figure slashed.

Lynn and William Baker, of Fornham Road, Bury St Edmunds, were sentenced at Norwich Crown Court in December 2005 on 12 specimen counts of obtaining property by deception.

William, 59, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000 and Lynn, 55, was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £45,000 - with the court ordering them to pay most of the costs of the Trading Standards investigation into them.

That investigation found that the couple, who were wholesalers of honey, had approached local shops with jars of what they claimed was honey produced in Norfolk.

Taken in were businesses in Old Buckenham, Cromer, Wells, Cawston, Dickleburgh, Bressingham, Hoveton, Ashwellthorpe, Ludham, Sheringham, Coltishall and Harleston.

But while the pair did have beehives in the county, he also purchased honey from other producers in England, Argentina, Chile and China, and were caught when trading standards officers conducted tests on the pollen found in the product.

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Officers had grown suspicious of the amount of honey being sold, with the Barkers being said to have generated £69,228 in turnover between 2001 and 2003.

After the court case five tonnes worth of honey found on the couple's premises was ordered to be destroyed.

In front of Lord Justice Thomas, Mrs Justice Cox and Judge Brian Barker QC, lawyers for the Bakers argued that the original sentence was “harsh and oppressive” and said the pair were struggling to find the money.

But in dismissing their appeal the three judges said that the Bakers had put innocent shopkeepers in danger of being prosecuted for selling goods that had been wrongly labelled.

Mrs Justice Cox said that the Bakers had fought the case at every turn and that the prosecution had cost well in excess of £100,000.

“The trial took so long because of the attitude of the Bakers,” she said - and added that the trial had taken four weeks.

The decision to uphold the original fines will be welcomed by Norfolk County Council. At the end of the 2005 trial, David Collinson, head of trading standards, said: “This was about protecting locally produced food.

“It was about supporting honest businesses and protecting them from people who set out to defraud. People who were defrauded here were local honey producers and those local shops who thought they were selling their customers a flavour of Norfolk.”