A PIGEON fancier found himself in the dock after setting himself up as a medicine man for sick birds.
Kevin Winter imported unauthorised medicines from South Africa and dished them out to bird fanciers on Wearside.
Officials from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) found a stash of the drugs when they raided his home at Canon Cockin Street, Hendon, and his lock-up at nearby Toward Road in August 2008.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Winter, 53, pleaded guilty to nine charges of importing unauthorised veterinary medicinal products between November 2006 and July 2008.
He admitted two charges of possessing the drugs, one charge of procuring the drugs and two charges of supplying drugs to his business customers.
He admitted one charge of possessing human medicine with intent to place them on the market.
He pleaded guilty to an unrelated charge of fraud in connection with a batch of sheep drench.
His barrister Robert Adams told the court: “This case is effectively about importation of veterinary drugs from abroad.”
Winter had faced further charges, including an allegation he practised as a vet while not registered, but they will no longer be pursued by prosecutors.
Judge Roger Thorn gave no indication what the likely outcome of the case will be.
But he told Winter: “You will get credit for your pleas of guilty.”
He will be sentenced on September 26 and was granted bail in the meantime.
Speaking after the hearing, pigeon fanciers, who described Winter as a “respected and authoritative” figure on Wearside, expressed their shock at the legal action.
“He’s been around for years and has always done a good job for us,” said a 68-year-old veteran flyer. “He’s never let us down. He’s not someone who has just come out of nowhere and started handing out drugs.
“He knows what he’s doing.
“He used to get invited to give talks on the pigeons and has always been highly regarded in the community
“There’s nothing he doesn’t know about them.
“He’s doing a good service. Most of the time he only charged the cost price of the medication.”
A spokesperson for Defra’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate said: “This was an illegal business which attacked the principle of safe and effective veterinary medicines.
“Incorrect use of medication of unknown origin and quality compromises animal health and welfare, increases the risk of harmful residues in the food chain and raises the spectre of unnecessary antibiotic resistance.”