A HIGH-profile case against three halal slaughtermen and their bosses over the alleged mistreatment of animals at an abattoir appears to be hanging by a thread after a judge ruled prosecutors had taken too long bringing it to court.

District judge Adrian Lower declared the proceedings over alleged animal-related offences at Bowood abattoir, near Thirsk, in December 2014 “a nullity”, meaning he found them legally void.

Solicitors for slaughtermen Kabeer Hussein, Kazam Hussein and Artur Lewandowski and the abattoir’s owners Robert and William Woodward told the pre-trial hearing at Wakefield Magistrates Court the case was over alleged summary offences, for which there are strict limits over when prosecutions can be brought.

The court heard the Food Standards Agency had received covert footage of the alleged offences from campaign group Animal Aid in January 2015, but did not send it on to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would make the decision over whether to prosecute, until December last year.

Howard Shaw, prosecuting, argued the time restrictions should start from when the Crown Prosecution Service was dealing with the case.

Judge Lower stated: “The investigators and prosecutors are indivisible as far as the court is concerned. By July of last year the prosecution [Food Standards Agency] had the necessary evidence.

“It may well be there was an issue of resource. I am sure those dealing with the case at the Food Standards Agency are very busy, but there comes a point when the prosecution has to decide whether to act.”

He adjourned the case until November 3 to allow the prosecution time to consider an appeal against his decision, which prosecutor Mr Shaw said was “almost certain”.

Polish worker Lewandowski, 30, of Ribble Drive, Darlington, is charged with two counts of causing suffering to four sheep by lifting them by their fleeces during the slaughter process.

Kabeer Hussain, 43, of Brantwood Road, Bradford, is 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.

Kazam Hussein, 53, of Haworth Road, Bradford, is 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.

Robert Woodward, 68, and his son, William, 30, both of Catesby, Daventry, Northamptonshire, are each charged with two counts of failing to act to prevent the acts by several employees that caused animals to suffer.

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