A FORMER prize-winning Vale farmer, now bankrupt and living on £53 a week benefit, faces a possible jail sentence and a life ban from keeping livestock.

Christopher Griffin, aged 53, of Nafford Lane, Birlingham, Pershore, pleaded guilty at Evesham on Tuesday to two charges of permitting cattle to suffer unnecessary distress between February 14 and April 20 last year, permitting a boar, sow and 14 piglets to suffer unnecessary distress on February 15, failing to provide a suitable diet for a sow so causing unnecessary suffering on February 15 and failing to provide a suitable diet for a Longhorn heifer between June 1 and 15.

The case was adjourned until November 30 for a pre-sentence report and Griffin was told by court chairman Gill Cartwright: "We consider the charges so serious we are going to ask for reports with all options open, including custody."

Paula Williamson, prosecuting for Worcestershire Trading Standards Service, asked for Griffin to be banned from keeping livestock and Jamie McCracken, counsel for Griffin, said he could not oppose it. Mrs Williamson said the charges related to the negligent manner in which he kept pigs and cattle and their inadequate living conditions.

Over a period of some weeks, she said, a county inspector and a vet on visits to the smallholding found pigs and cattle unacceptably thin and hungry, without proper bedding and in pools of slurry.

"A sow and a boar had to be destroyed on welfare grounds," she said. "Cattle were emaciated and living in wet and dirty conditions, well below legal minimum standards."

Mr McCracken said: "He has gone from a competent and prize-winning farmer to this," and explained: "It has been caused by a combination of economics, domestic problems and ill-health.

"Two things could and arguably should have happened. When it was clear he was not fit to look after the farm and he had no money to do it, the animals should have gone. Investigating officers should have looked at ways of helping him."