THREE halal slaughtermen and their bosses have appeared before magistrates over the alleged mistreatment of animals at an abattoir.

Kabeer Hussein, Kazam Hussein, Artur Lewandowski, Robert Woodward and William Woodward sat alongside each other in the dock at Northallerton Magistrates’ Court as animal activists looked on from the public gallery.

Polish worker Lewandowski, 30, of Ribble Drive, Darlington, was charged with two counts of causing suffering to four sheep at Bowood Farms abattoir, Busby Stoop, near Thirsk, in December 2014, by lifting them by their fleeces during the slaughter process, when he should reasonably have known he would be causing pain to the animal.

Kabeer Hussain, 43, of Brantwood Road, Bradford, was charged with two counts of causing unnecessary suffering to 24 sheep by failing to give them sufficient time to lose consciousness after they had been killed at the slaughterhouse in December 2014.

Kazam Hussein, 53, of Haworth Road, Bradford, was charged with six counts of causing suffering to 29 sheep, including not giving sheep enough time to lose consciousness, striking them during slaughter, and not cutting their throats with a single cut.

Former owners of Bowood, father Robert Woodward, 68, and son William Woodward, 30, both of Catesby, Daventry, Northamptonshire, are each charged with two counts of failing to act at Bowood Farms in Thirsk, in December 2014, to prevent the acts by several employees that caused animals to suffer.

Each spoke only to give their names and addresses at the hearing, which was told if the case goes before a jury, the trial would be expected to last four days.

Prosecuting, Howard Shaw said the case centred on alleged "significant and systemic" breaches of rules in the way the animals were treated.

The case was adjourned until May 27, when legal issues surrounding the case will be discussed.

The abattoir made international headlines last year when the Food Standards Agency launched an investigation following the publication of covert footage from animal rights group Animal Aid.

In August 2015, insolvency firm Leonard Curtis Recovery were appointed as joint administrators of £29.1m turnover company Bowood Farms Ltd, trading as Bowood Yorkshire Lamb.