Lancashire Police must pay a horse breeder £80,000 in damages after seizing his palomino Gypsy Cob stallion, named Romeo, and “wrongfully” detaining him for four months.

At London’s High Court today (5 February), Judge David Donaldson QC ruled that Romeo’s owner — Irish horse dealer William Cash — had lost out on the chance to cover breeding mares at his farm, Clononeen, in Durrow, County Laois. The business has since moved to Farnham, Surrey.

His resulting loss was £80,000, said the judge.

However he dismissed other claims over loss of stud fees, the 20,000 Euro that Mr Cash spent on purchasing an alternative stallion, a deterioration in Romeo’s condition while in police custody, and Mr Cash’s “distress and inconvenience”.

Romeo — whose full name is Clononeen Mull of Kintyre — was seized by police on 21 April, 2006 from Blackpool man, William Brandon Brown, who had borrowed the stallion for breeding purposes.

Romeo was seized on the “reasonable” suspicion that he was stolen, said Judge Donaldson, as Mr Brown initially claimed he was owned by someone other than Mr Cash.

But, said the judge, by 3 May, 2006, Blackpool CID had been given evidence that Mr Cash was the owner, and by 18 May they should have released the horse.

Romeo was finally returned to Mr Brown on 17 August.

The £80,000 damages, paid to Mr Cash, was based on Romeo siring 11 foals in the summer of 2007, with an average value of around £12,000 each.

The judge also awarded Mr Brown, a builder with a keen interest in horses, £150 because the police had initially tried to remove Romeo without a warrant, and that amounted to a “trespass”. Mr Brown later agreed that the horse could be seized.

Romeo — who had been purchased by Mr Cash in late 2004 as a three-year-old — was sold to an American woman in February 2007 for 150,000 Euro (about £112,000).