Norfolk farm fined for putting poison in private garden

One of the containers which was recovered. Pic: Health and Safety Executive.

One of the containers which was recovered. Pic: Health and Safety Executive. - Credit: Health and Safety Executive

A Norfolk farming company allowed workers to put dangerous poison pellets in a private garden which could have led to a death, according to health and safety inspectors.

The pellets, which produce a potentially lethal gas, were placed in burrows in a garden at Bracon Ash, by workers from T Long & Co. The company was trying to stop rabbits from destroying crops.

T Long & Co said it regretted its actions, and apologised for any distress.

Health and safety investigators said Clare Barnett-Naghshineh found the men in the garden of her Mergate Lane home on January 14 last year.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Paul Unwin said she confronted them and they told her they were gassing rabbits, but did not give her further details.


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He said that, after asking them to leave her garden, they continued to apply pellets on the verges of Marsh Lane, a country lane used by dog walkers, next to her property.

When Mrs Barnett-Naghshineh investigated what the men had been doing in her garden, she found pellets and containers.

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Mr Unwin said the pellets were phostoxin – which turns into a gas on exposure to water. That gas, phosgene, was used for chemical warfare during the First World War.

Mr Unwin said Mrs Barnett-Naghshineh put the pellets in a container, which was then placed in her greenhouse. When Rentokil came to investigate, they found the amount of gas was above legal levels.

The company, based in Crownthorpe, pleaded guilty at Norwich Magistrates Court to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was ordered to pay just over £20,000.

T Long & Co said it had entered an early guilty plea, and had gone to 'great lengths' to ensure there would be no repeat, including training for employees.

Richard Long, director of the company, said: 'I would like to apologise for any distress we have caused our neighbour: this was not our intention, I was trying to control the rabbit population which had decimated our crops.'

A fine of £3,000 was imposed for the first charge - that it had not ensured the health and safety of employees. A £12,000 fine was imposed for the second charge - that its conduct had failed to ensure people who did not work for the company had not been exposed to risk. The court also ordered the company to pay a victim surcharge and the Health and Safety Executive's prosecution costs of £4,967.10.

Mr Unwin said: 'Products such as phostoxin are dangerous compounds and can easily cause severe harm or, indeed, fatalities if not used properly by trained and competent persons.'

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