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Fisherman cleared in oyster trial
9:30am Tuesday 20th August 2013 in Echo News
A FISHERMAN has been cleared of storing oysters illegally at his shop.
Richard Eves, who runs the Leigh Fishermans Co-operative, in High Street, Old Leigh, was found to have 400 untreated live oysters in a fridge at his shop when it was visited by Southend Council environmental health officers last September.
Southend Council took him to court after accusing him of storing stock that was unfit for human consumption.
However, following a two-day trial at Basildon Magistrates’ Court, he was acquitted after assuring the bench they were “samples” not intended to be eaten.
The shellfish, which were harvested on the Westcliff foreshore two days before the visit, had not been through a purification process to remove potentially deadly viruses or bacteria which can infest the molluscs.
If eaten untreated, oysters could pass on diseases such as norovirus and even cause septicaemia in people with vulnerable immune systems.
Oysters harvested from clean waters can be eaten untreated, but any shellfish harvested between Leigh and Shoebury must be subjected to a process which destroys any bacteria.
However, it is not illegal to store untreated oysters for personal use or if they are not intended to be eaten.
Mr Eves argued in court that he had collected the oysters just as a sample of larger oysters to show to a prospective customer to see if he wanted to place any bigger orders.
He told the Echo: “They were never going to be eaten, they were just to show the customer.
The council also said I could not store any oysters in my fridge at all because I do not have a permit, but the magistrates said there had to be a little bit of leeway with these regulations.”
He branded the prosecution an expensive waste of time and said the council would now have to pick up some, or all, of his £7,500 costs.
Mr Eves called David Gerrard, the chairman of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, as an expert witness, who backed him on his storage methods.
A council spokesman said: “The case involving Mr Eves resulted in an acquittal.
“The council paid its own costs.”
He was unclear if the council had to meet any of Mr Eves’ costs, but refused to comment further on the case.
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