Co Tyrone cattle fraudster escapes jail but wants to fight to clear his name

David Lees jail term was suspended for two years
David Lees jail term was suspended for two years

A Dungannon cattle dealer who duped a farming family into buying poor-quality animals has walked free from court after his three-month jail term was suspended for two years.

Dungannon Magistrates’ Court heard, however, that 56-year-old David Lee is set to lodge an appeal to fight to clear his name of fraud.

District Judge John Meehan told the fraudster he had treated his victims and farming regulations “with complete disregard”.

Last month Lee, from the Carrickaness Road, was warned he was “on the knife edge” of custody when Judge Meehan adjourned the case to allow him time to find restitution for his victim.

On Wednesday the court heard the £6,000 restitution is with Lee’s solicitor but payment has been postponed as Lee intends to fight to clear his name of the fraud convictions.

In addition, Judge Meehan also fined Lee £2,000.

Lee had earlier pleaded guilty to 14 offences of failing to notify the DARD of cattle movement and following a part-heard contest, was convicted of three other offences of fraud by falsely representing that two calves he sold to Patrick McGorrey had only been moved twice, providing a false statement to the DARD and failing to keep a herd register, all committed between May 25 and October 8 2015.

Describing how the McGorry family were left “swimming on their own” after they unsuspectingly bought poor-quality cattle from Lee in 2015, Judge Meehan previously said that not only had they been left out of pocket with ongoing vet bills but Lee had also run rough shod over the rules and regulations of cattle movement.

Describing Lee’s evidence as “unreliable,” Judge Meehan said during his testimony he “didn’t answer questions, raised red herrings and didn’t address the issues at all”.

Highlighting that fact, in relation to Lee failing to keep a herd register, the judge described how DARD inspectors found 40 animals were missing from Lee’s farm so he claimed they had been lost or stolen.

While defence barrister Blaine Nugent tried to suggest Lee’s record keeping had been “shambolic,” Judge Meehan was scathingly critical of Lee who had breached the “proper system of verification and traceability” meaning that some of the cattle he sold had likely found their way into the food chain.

The judge also revealed that Lee had numerous offences throughout his criminal record dating from 1976 including animal cruelty, dishonesty offences, harassment and motoring offences.