At Norwich Magistrates Court on 17 August 2011 Rodent Services East Anglia pleaded guilty to four offences of failing to use a pesticide in accordance with the conditions of the approval and not taking all reasonable precautions in breach of the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and The Control of Pesticides Regulations. They were fined a total of £3,350.
The offences were uncovered after a dead fox was discovered by a Wymondham landowner. Pesticide poisoning was suspected and the case was accepted under the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme. Analysis for pesticides confirmed rodenticides in the fox’s liver and this was considered to be a contributory factor to its death.
The Chemicals Regulation Directorate (CRD) requested further investigation. Natural England in conjunction with the Norfolk Constabulary, who subsequently brought the charges against the company, carried out further enquiries to establish the source of the poisoning. Investigations revealed that Rodent Services East Anglia was carrying out work at a close-by farm. They were using the rodenticide, Roban.
The product label for Roban states that users must search for and dispose of rodent carcasses at frequent intervals. The investigation found that on two occasions there was a period of 86 days during which searches were not carried out by pest control staff. It was during this time period that the poisoned fox was found dead. The company also failed on these occasions to take all reasonable precautions because the company:
Used the product without the production of an environmental risk assessment
Used the product for a period longer than directed on the label
Failed to inspect the bait points during the first 10 – 14 days of the treatment, as directed on the label.
For all offences the company was fined £3,250, with costs and victim surcharge of £100, making a total of £3,350.
Speaking after the court case, Dr Ed Blane, Regulatory Improvement and Specialist Services, Natural England said: “We welcome the sentence in this case as a clear warning to all users of rodent poisons to comply with the law.
“Using these poisons illegally poses a significant threat to our wildlife and environment from secondary poisoning – when an animal or bird dies after eating poisoned rats or mice. Our investigations show that animals such as buzzards, red kites and foxes, which eat dead rodents, are exposed to these poisons each year. This threat can be significantly reduced if users act within the law, following label instructions correctly, clearing up dead rodents and correctly disposing of bodies and bait after a treatment.”
Rodent Services East Anglia is a privately-owned pest control company which has been in operation since 1963. It operates throughout East Anglia and has 10 technicians.
Commenting on the case, managing director, David Martin said: “We have an excellent reputation among our customers in East Anglia and we very much regret appearing in court on this occasion. We pleaded guilty to the two charges because we must admit that there was a breakdown in our operating procedures and record keeping. We also wanted closure on the matter to save the continuing significant costs of our legal advisers. This, together with our apology, was recognised by the Court at the hearing.
“Since the incidents, which occurred some three years ago, we have ensured that both our standard operating procedures and our paperwork have been fully up to the standards that are expected of a professional firm such as ours.
“Earlier this year, we became subscribers to the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) as we believe in their aims and will ensure that we continue to contribute to the increased professionalism of the pest control industry. An industry of which we are proud to be part,” concluded David Martin.