With A Body Condition Score of Zero

Mr David Bickell, 45, of Burnham Road, North Creake, and Mr William Bickell, 17, of the same address, were sentenced today on 2nd October at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court after pleading guilty to a number of offences under the Animal Welfare Act after sixteen equines, three cattle, 18 pigs and two dogs were found at a number of sites in North Norfolk between December 2013 and February 2014.
Mr David Bickell admitted 14 charges and was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for the Section 4 and Section 9 offences – the maximum term the judge could award, in light of the guilty plea. The judge said David Bickell was “not fit to be anywhere near animals” – having previously been convicted of causing unnecessary suffering to a mare in 2011 – and disqualified him from keeping all animals for 15 years, which he is not permitted to appeal for 10 years. Mr William Bickell admitted 13 charges and was ordered to pay £85 costs, plus a £15 surcharge, and given a six-month referral to the Youth Offending Team. Given his remorse and cooperation, the judge deemed that William Bickell had been led by his father and should have the chance to move on and achieve a career away from him.
Norfolk Trading Standards and the RSPCA brought a joint prosecution against the pair following a call from a concerned member of the public to World Horse Welfare in mid-December 2013. The charity’s Field Officer Jacko Jackson and Trading Standards Officer Paula Cooper visited the site and found a number of animals – including several horses, two donkeys and one dog – in an emaciated condition. The animals were deemed to be suffering and four ponies were subsequently removed under Section 4 of the Animal Welfare Act into the care of World Horse Welfare’s Hall Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre. Redwings took in one Arab stallion and the two donkeys were removed to the Donkey Sanctuary.
Jacko says: “The condition these animals were found in was truly terrible. One colt in particular, a piebald yearling named Eric, stands out in my mind: Even through his winter coat you could see that he was emaciated, with a body condition score of just zero. Eric was very quiet and weak, stumbling in walk, and sadly had to be put to sleep for welfare reasons.”
A further nine ponies belonging to David and William Bickell were removed from several different sites in North Norfolk and taken into World Horse Welfare’s care following visits from Jacko and Norfolk Trading Standards at the start of the year. All the ponies were either underweight or emaciated and were removed under Section 4 or Section 9 of the Animal Welfare Act. Thankfully, all the 13 ponies removed were eventually signed over to World Horse Welfare.
Sophie Leney, Trading Standards Manager, says: “Norfolk County Council Trading Standards always treats seriously any incidents where a farmed animal is caused unnecessary suffering. We welcome the sentences imposed in this case, as this will ensure that other animals do not suffer the same fate.
“I want to thank the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, Redwings and the Donkey Sanctuary for the help and assistance they have provided, including keeping these animals once they had been seized. Without this support, our service would have found it difficult to cope with the size of the operation.”
Jacko comments: “This prosecution is the culmination of a lot of hard work from all the agencies involved. Despite returning three times to the properties operated by Mr Bickell and his son and giving them the opportunities to rectify their care of their animals, we found further offences on every visit. The worrying thing is that it did not just involve equines: The very low standards also applied to pigs, cattle and dogs.
“Although three of the ponies in this case have either been put to sleep for welfare reasons or passed away, one mare has already made such a great recovery in the hands of the Hall Farm team that she has successfully been rehomed. The other nine continue to thrive – two-year-old cob gelding Dibble even took part in the farm’s summer showing event, proving just how far he has come since arriving at Hall Farm in late January.”
It is hoped that the nine ponies remaining in Hall Farm’s care will be able to be rehomed themselves in due course, having blossomed into happy, healthy ponies under the watchful eyes of the Hall Farm team.