UPDATE: Magistrates’ sentencing blunder for owner of filthy café covered in dirt with hole in wall

Linda Gaunt, 46, who runs the Bijou Cafe, Ovenden, pleaded guilty to 22 breaches of the Food Hygiene Regulations
Linda Gaunt, 46, who runs the Bijou Cafe, Ovenden, pleaded guilty to 22 breaches of the Food Hygiene Regulations

Magistrates have been forced into an embarrassing u-turn after they sentence a cafe owner beyond their powers.

Linda Gaunt, 46, of Myrtle Drive, Illingworth, was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work after admitting 22 food hygiene regulation breaches.

However, the maximum sentence they could hand out under their powers was a £5,000 fine and the case will have to heard again and re-sentenced.

Gaunt was sentenced on Wednesday June 6 but the error was only picked up on Thursday morning once the paperwork had been submitted.

During the proceedings chair of the magistrates Barry Powell had said that the bench thought their powers were insufficient.

Prosecutor Claire Farrimond said: “You may think fine of £5,000 is not sufficient so may want to consider a community order.

“It’s not serious enough to go to custody or Crown Court.”

Magistrates took this advice and with the help of the court’s legal advisor came to the decision of imposing community service.

An HMCTS spokesperson said: “This was an isolated error. Magistrates did not have the power, in this particular case, to impose a community order.

“The error was identified immediately and the case will be re-opened on Tuesday 19 June before the original Bench.

“The Magistrates will then reconsider the sentence and whether the defendant should be committed to the Crown Court to be sentenced.”

The Courier will be there to report the new sentence as soon as a decision is made.

The original court report:

A café owner will serve 120 hours of unpaid work after admitting hygiene regulation breaches including having no hot water.

When Environmental Health officers inspected the Bijou Cafe, Ovenden, the surfaces were so filthy that they could write their names in the dirt.

Linda Gaunt, 46, of Myrtle Drive, Illingworth, admitted 22 counts of breaching health and safety regulations.

Calderdale Magistrates Court heard how Environmental Health officers issued numerous warnings from as early as January 2011 before finally closing the cafe and prosecuting Gaunt in November 2011.

Officers carried out their final inspection on November 23, 2011.

They found a large hole in the kitchen that could easily allow pests into the food preparation area.

Prosecutor Claire Farrimond said: “The officer put on his apron and went to wash his hands but found there was no hot water in the kitchen.

“He went to the bathroom and again there was no hot water.

“Food handlers had no hygienic means of washing their hands after handling food or going to the toilet.”

Officers found a large hole in the exterior kitchen wall that would have allowed pests such as rats to get into the cafe easily.

Photos were shown to the magistrates which showed mould in the seals of the fridge/freezer, dead insects inside the fridge and “filthy” wall coverings and flooring.

A steak pie was being stored at 16.4C, well above the limit the 8C limit which left it susceptible to bacteria and food poisoning for anyone eating it.

Miss Farrimond said: “The mechanical ventilation system was unsuitable and insufficient.

“Shelving and storage areas were in a filthy condition and equipment in general was filthy including the oven.”

Gaunt owned the cafe for around three years.

Representing herself she said the cafe was shut now: “It just got too much for me and I wasn’t making that much money.”

Magistrates gave 120 hours unpaid work and ordered her to pay £250 in costs.