A pig farmer has denied failing to keep records of animal movements just before the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Alan Clement, 58, pleaded not guilty to 14 charges of failing to keep and failing to produce documents proving that he legitimately moved pigs from his County Durham farm to a nearby abattoir.

Mr Clement, of West Craig Lea, Roddymoor, near Crook, appeared before Bishop Auckland Magistrates' Court to answer the charges, which relate to pig movements from December 15 to 22, last year.

This was his second appearance in court, his first having been to contest a decision by magistrates to convict him in his absence of breaching pig movement regulations.

Mr Clement, the court had heard, declined to cooperate with trading standards officers throughout the investigation and never attended any of the early court hearings, was told in September that he would be given a final chance to give his version of events before sentence was passed.

He did not attend and was convicted in his absence.

But the bench decided on November 26 to exercise powers under Section 142 of the Magistrates' Courts Act which allow the court to re-hear the evidence.

A two-day trial date was set for March 4, at Bishop Auckland.