A man who stole almost £6,000 worth of sheep from a Peak District farm has been jailed for 18 weeks.
Andrew Piner had denied theft but was found guilty after a trial at High Peak Magistrates’ Court on Monday.
The case was adjourned until today (Wednesday) so a pre-sentence report could be prepared.
Farmer David Robinson advertised 49 sheep for sale in the Farmer’s Guardian in September 2013, prosecutor Jennifer Fitzgerald said. A potential buyer arranged to view the sheep on September 17, 2013, and then agreed to buy the animals for £5,635.
Mr Robinson said he wasn’t prepared to let the sheep be collected until the cheque cleared, which it failed to do as the account it related to had been closed.
But when he went to his property, North Lees Farm in Hathersage, on September 19, he noticed the sheep were all gone.
Mr Robinson then placed another advert in the Farmer’s Guardian and received several phone calls naming Piner, 49, of Mill Lane, Gisburn, Clitheroe, as the person who took the sheep.
Police were informed and checks discovered 34 of the missing sheep were on a farm in Clitheroe, where Piner was the farm manager.
His vehicle and mobile phone were also recorded as being in Derbyshire on the day of the offence.
In interview, Piner denied having any involvement in the theft. During his trial, he said he had acted on behalf of his employer in purchasing the sheep, and no dishonesty was intended, however his employer disputed this.
In January 2013, Piner was sentenced to five weeks in prison, suspended for two years after being convicted of four offences of fraud, Mrs Fitzgerald added, so the Hathersage offence was in breach of that order.
None of the sheep have been recovered, the court heard, but Mr Robinson was able to claim on his insurance for them, after paying an excess of £1,000.
Representing himself in court, Piner said: “I’m sorry for everything that’s gone on. I had a lot of problems and I just regret what happened really.”
Chairman of the Bench Eric Hilton said: “This offence was a high-value theft. It has been aggravated by your long record of previous dishonesty offences.
“This was also committed while you were on a suspended sentence order, so therefore we find the theft is so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified.”
He was also given a further week’s imprisonment for the breach of the suspended sentence order, to run concurrently, and he must pay an £80 surcharge.