John Brian Askew, 69, has received a five-month custodial sentence and a lifetime ban on keeping animals in a shocking case of cruelty to horses.

Eighteen horses belonging to Askew were discovered in varying states of emaciation, alongside the dead bodies of five others, on his Lancashire farm in March 2004.

In April this year, Askew pleaded guilty to 11 offences of cruelty to animals at Burnley Magistrates Court. He was finally sentenced last Friday after failing to attend court on three previous occasions due to health problems.

Askew’s horses were taken into the ILPH’s Lancashire base, ILPH Penny Farm, following a joint operation involving the ILPH, the RSPCA, HAPPA, The Donkey Sanctuary and horse transporter Chris Adams of Stannah Horse Feeds.

“When I arrived at Mr Askew’s farm I was very disturbed to find the dead ponies in various states of emaciation. The remaining horses were very thin and it was imperative that they were removed from the farm to avoid any further deaths,” said ILPH field officer, Chris Williamson.

Tony Fleming, manager of ILPH Penny Farm, says: “All the horses were in a very bad way when they came in here. My staff and I have never witnessed anything like we saw on the moors that day and never want to again.”

Four of the horses proved to be mares in foal, and ILPH Starsky, ILPH Hutch (pictured right), ILPH Cagney and ILPH Lacey were born last summer at Penny Farm. All four have been signed over to the ILPH as part of Mr Askew’s agreement to plead guilty.

“I am very pleased that the courts have recognised the seriousness of the offence, and have issued a custodial sentence and a life ban. This is sending out a clear message that this type of offence will not be tolerated,” says Williamson.