The mother of international three-day eventer Lucy Wiegersma has spoken of the family’s “gross” treatment at the hands of over-zealous officials who were criticised by a judge in a trial which barely “limped past half time”.
Hendrik Wiegersma, 62, who runs an equestrian centre at Highampton, near Beaworthy, was cleared at Exeter Crown Court last week of taking part in a scam to bury old tyres.
Mr Wiegersma was awarded costs after being found not guilty at the end of an eight-week trial, the largest ever brought by the Environment Agency with a total cost said to be around £2 million.
Pippa Wiegersma said the family had endured four years of stress and been made to feel like criminals since they embarked on the venture to create gallops and schooling facilities from bales made from used tyres.
She claimed officials had been unreasonable and over-the-top, once even “bursting out of bushes”, adding: “It was just so stressful – I have hardly slept for the past four years.
“One day Hendrik had just come out of Launceston having had knee replacement and was on crutches and could barely go anywhere – he was in considerable pain.
“Two police squad cars and two Environment Agency cars came and he was taken to Launceston police station to be interviewed – it was all so gross.”
Wiegersma accepted payments from a Woodbury-based company called Recycled Construction Systems to use square bales, each made out of 100 old tyres compressed into cubes.
The bales were buried to improve drainage and provide a springy surface for horses to ride on, a system used at Bicton Arena, in East Devon.
The jury’s decision has thrown the entire regulation of the used tyre business into chaos, prompting Judge Phillip Wassall to call for an urgent review of the law to clarify what he described as an opaque morass.
Judge Wassall said the case should not have been brought to court while the law remains unclear as to whether the use of tyre bales in construction projects remains unclear.
He urged the Environment Agency to clarify the law before embarking on any more expensive prosecutions.
He said: “It is becoming a very big growth industry and the defendants were entitled to be involved in it.
“Regulation was difficult for the EA because the law is opaque and unclear.
“Any law that a normal member of the public cannot look at or understand, even with guidance, is bound to lead to costly trials like this.