A farmer due to be sentenced for illegal cattle movements had his conviction overturned yesterday because of a legal loophole.
Mark Payne, of Flintshire, north Wales, benefited from a legal technicality that could affect more than 200 other farmers.
He was convicted in March this year of 19 offences of contravening Cattle Identifi-cation and Cattle Database Regulations.
Officials from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs claimed that he had not properly completed paperwork which must be filled out when an animal is bought, sold or dies.
Mr Payne denied the charges but was convicted by magistrates in Flintshire, north Wales.
He was due to be sentenced by Prestatyn Magistrates and could have been jailed or fined £5,000 per offence.
However, the case was reopened and thrown out after lawyers acting for Defra admitted that the EU regulations which led to the UK legislation had been amended.
Those amendments were not ratified by UK legislators, meaning that the rules were not lawful from 2000 until June 2006, when the loophole was closed.
A Defra spokesman said: "Our interpretation was that amendments to the original EU regulations did not need to be separately enshrined into UK law.
"Current legislation is now entirely proper but there is a legal grey area relating to people with convictions dating back to 2000. "
Mr Payne's solicitor, David Kirwan, who is also a Conservative councillor, said the decision could lead to other farmers seeking to overturn convictions.
He said: "You might call it a loophole but I regard it as monstrous that my client could have been jailed or fined large sums of money under regulations that were not known to UK law."