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Staff win ruling against DJ Houghton Catching Services

A high court ruling has found the director and secretary of a chicken catching business personally liable for contractual and statutory breaches relating to employment conditions.

A group of Lithuanian men who caught chickens for DJ Houghton Catching Services until 2014 brought the case against the company, arguing they were subject to a “gruelling and exploitative work regime”.

The court found workers were obliged to work shifts without respite, wages were witheld and those who complained faced the risk of being “evicted into the street”.

The court upheld the workers’ summary judgment application against the company and found it liable for contractual and statutory breaches.

These included the failure to pay the applicable minimum wage, the charging of unlawful “employment fees”, the arbitrary withholding of wages, and the failure to pay holiday pay.

It also ruled that Mr Houghton and Ms Judge were personally liable to the workers for the serious contractual and statutory breaches of their company.

Giving judgment, the Honourable Mr Justice Lane held that Mr Houghton and Ms Judge “cannot…have honestly believed that what was being done by them to the chicken catchers was morally or legally sound”

The men have a series of outstanding civil claims against both the company and Mr Houghton, as well as claims outstanding against the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.