The charges against Cllr Caiach were that some bones were found in one of her fields, that some of the sheep were suffering from fly strike and that one animal was lame.
The council originally brought 10 separate charges against Cllr Caiach, but agreed to drop 7 of them if she agreed to plead to three of the more minor counts.
For her part, Cllr Caiach is adamant that there was insufficient evidence to make the other 7 charges stick, but that she was strongly advised to plead to the three other charges and forgo an appeal because of the prospect of rapidly escalating and massive costs. Because she was not eligible for legal aid, Cllr Caiach will have to meet all of the costs out of her own pocket.
In bringing 10 charges against her, the council engaged the services of a top flight legal team and an expert witness who produced a report at a cost of more than £8,000.
The case has been reported extensively in the local press, including the verdict under the slightly odd headline Court orders Llanelli mum to pay out £11k in sheep carcass case.
Anyone who reads the local press will have seen reporting of stories of prosecutions of farmers for neglect and cruelty from time to time. A quick trawl through the archives of Welsh local papers suggests that almost invariably these involve gross neglect or cruelty on an altogether different scale, with reports of numbers of carcasses strewn across fields or lying in sheds, starving horses and cattle and slow, lingering deaths.
That was not the case here.
It is also not the case that all serious cases are prosecuted. Cneifiwr knows of one case in Carmarthenshire of appalling neglect and cruelty on a local farm which featured on Y Byd ar Bedwar. No action appears to have been taken.
Fly strike is a major problem for sheep farmers, and it is particularly bad in wet years such as 2012. Farmers are advised to check their flocks on a daily basis, and the expert witness used in Cllr Caiach's case appears to have gone further and recommended checks more than once a day.
Fly strike develops very quickly, and the problem for farmers is that it can be difficult to detect in its early stages without close examination of each animal, especially before shearing. There will be very few sheep farmers who escape fly strike, and while the official advice is good, for most Welsh farmers it is hardly practical.
In the same way anyone who has walked across fields in this part of the world will have come across bones. Where they come from and how old they are is usually impossible to say.
A sheep which can appear to be healthy in the morning can be dead for no apparent reason hours later, and carcasses can be stripped bare by red kites, ravens, crows, foxes and badgers within a very short time. They are also no respecters of property boundaries, and bones from a dead animal can end up being scattered over a large area.
Cllr Caiach says that she does not know where the bones came from, and that all of her animals were accounted for. The expert witness nevertheless concluded from looking at photographs that a pinkish tinge suggested that the animal could have died fairly recently.
If fly strike and the presence in fields of old bones are to be used as a basis for prosecuting sheep farmers, the courts and lawyers will be kept very busy indeed. The Daily Telegraph painted a picture of what can happen to farmers when councils become heavy handed a couple of years ago (here).
The last couple of years have been difficult, to say the least, for this councillor who is one of the fiercest critics of the officer-led regime in County Hall.
- Before the council elections last year she was placed under punitive "special measures" by the Chief Executive and forbidden to ask questions of any council officer other than the Chief Executive himself.
- In July last year the Ombudsman for Public Services dismissed a long series of complaints and accusations made against her by the Chief Executive.
- It recently came to light that an unknown senior officer in the council had ordered the councillor's e-mail account to be monitored.