A farmer who cut off lambs' tails with a kitchen knife only avoided an immediate prison sentence due to his age and ill health.

Gerald Benney, from Cury, has been banned for keep sheep and cattle for ten years after what was described by the judge as one of the worse cases she has had to deal with in recent times.

Benney, age 76, pleaded guilty to five charges at Bodmin Magistrates Court: failing to dispose of 35 sheep carcasses on March 28 this year, causing unnecessary suffering to five sheep on the same date by failing to treat their lameness, failing to keep medicine records on August 17, mutilating ten five-month-old lambs by using a kitchen knife to dock their tails on that same date and causing unnecessary suffering to four sheep by failing to treat their lameness, also on that date.

District Judge Diana Baker told Mr Benney that the case was one of the worst that she had recently dealt with and if it were not for his age and that he was in poor health, he would have been sent into immediate custody.

Instead she sentenced Benney to four months custody for the welfare offences, two months custody for failing to keep medicine records and one month for failing to dispose of the carcasses, all suspended for two years.

In addition to being disqualified from keeping sheep and cattle, he was ordered to pay the full costs of £6,329 within seven days and a victim surcharge of £115 was added.

Benney told the court that the issues were caused by him suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and having a heart condition, which meant he rarely left the house during the winter.

Legal action was brought against Benney by Cornwall Council.

The council's head of business standards and registration service, Stuart Benson, said: "This investigation involved some serious animal welfare matters. Thirty-three lambs were left to die in fields, over ten ewes had not been treated for severe lameness and in some cases the sheep were walking on bleeding, hoof-less feet."

Jonathan McCulloch, Cornwall Council’s animal health inspector who led the case, said: “After 19 years I thought I had seen most things, but I was appalled at Mr Benney using a kitchen knife to cut off ten sheep tails. It showed a complete lack of empathy for these animals."

Sue James, Cornwall Council cabinet member for environment and public protection, said animal health inspectors normally worked with farmers, smallholders and businesses across Cornwall to ensure compliance with legislation.

"However, this serious neglect of animals could not be tolerated," she added.