Gangmaster found guilty in the first GLA prosecution case.
29th April 2008
A gangmaster has been found guilty of contravening the Gangmasters (Licensing) Act 2004 at the Sheriff Court of Tayside, Central and Fife at Forfar on Tuesday 29 April 2008. She is the first person ever to be convicted under the Gangmasters Licensing Act (2004). Fiona Jane Clark of 6 Bracken Brae, Perth pleaded guilty to acting as a gangmaster between October 2006 and December 2006 without a licence from the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA). The case has now been adjourned for sentencing until 2pm on the 29 May 2008.
The GLA launched enforcement investigations against the gangmaster shortly after the offence of operating without a licence was introduced in October 2006. Although Fiona Clark did apply for a licence, the application was refused for reasons including a lack of identity checks on the workers to ensure legal working, no deductions for tax and national insurance on several pay slips and no evidence that tax and national insurance had ever been paid to HMRC. Even though the licence was refused she continued trading without a licence by supplying workers to pick, process and pack potatoes.
During the period where Fiona Clark was supplying workers the further criminal offence of using an unlicensed gangmaster was introduced in December 2006. The labour user that Clark was found to be supplying to after the introduction of the labour user offence received a written warning regarding use of an unlicensed gangmaster. Paul Whitehouse Chairman of the GLA said:
“There is no hiding place for unlicensed gangmasters. We will seek them out and use the full force of our powers to deal with them. Any gangmaster operating without a licence needs to be lucky all of the time, we only need to be lucky once to catch them.”
“Our lawyers are already looking at further prosecution cases and we expect to see more unlicensed gangmasters in court. We will continue to pass all Scottish cases to the Procurator Fiscal to consider for prosecution.”
David Howdle, Area Procurator Fiscal for Tayside said:
“Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service take crimes of this nature very seriously indeed. We will continue to work closely with the Gangmasters Licensing Authority in the future, as we did in the first case, to secure all available evidence and to ensure that we bring these cases to court where there is sufficient evidence to do so.”
Notes to editors
1. The Gangmasters Licensing Authority was set up in 2005 to curb the exploitation of workers in the agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and associated processing and packaging industries. It was set up following the death of 23 Chinese cockle pickers in Morecambe Bay.
2. There are currently 1197 gangmasters licensed by the GLA
3. A gangmaster is an individual or business who:
• supplies labour to agriculture, horticulture, shellfish gathering and food processing and packaging
• uses labour to provide a service in the regulated sector, eg harvesting or gathering agricultural produce
• uses labour to gather shellfish.
To be granted a GLA licence all businesses must meet the GLA licensing standards and the principle authority of the business must meet ‘Fit or Proper’ person criteria. Cross government checks are made on all licence applications.
4. It has been an offence to supply labour to the GLA regulated sectors without a licence to do so since 1 October 2006, with the maximum penalty being ten years imprisonment and an unlimited fine.
5. Copies of any appeal decisions can be obtained from the appeals secretariat Gangmasters Licensing Appeals, Defra, Electra Way, Crewe, Cheshire CW1 6GJ Telephone: 01270 754231, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. To date, 55 licences have been revoked by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority.
7. Paul Whitehouse, Chairman of the GLA is available for interview
Public enquiries: 0845 602 5020
Media enquiries: 0115 900 8963/07825 797130