2015-05-01  

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NFUS Meets Politicians to Highlight Rural Crime Issues

NFU Scotland is taking politicians on farm to highlight the growing impact of rural crime in the Scottish countryside.

Leading agricultural insurer, NFU Mutual, has estimated that criminal activity cost those that live and work in Scotland’s countryside around £1.9 million in 2013 alone. It is expected that the cost of rural crime in Scotland will have increased when the 2014 figures become available.

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Following a roundtable evidence session on agricultural crime that was held by the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee in February, MSPs on the Committee are looking to meet with farmers in their constituencies who have been impacted by instances of agricultural crime. Farm visits to show MSPs the impact of rural crime are being planned for North and South Lanarkshire, Forth Valley and Dumfriesshire.

This week Margaret Mitchell MSP, the Conservative spokesperson for Justice and Central Scotland MSP, visited the Douglas family on a farm near Wishaw in North Lanarkshire. Since moving to the farm 29 years ago, the Douglas family have been subjected to a numerous instances of theft, including fuel, tools and quad bikes. The number of incidents has intensified in recent years, with thieves routinely targeting the farm’s quad bike. That has had a huge impact on the insurance costs faced by the farm. Perpetrators have never been caught and, as a result, there have been no successful prosecutions.

As a result of the rural crime session in the Scottish Parliament, the Solicitor General for Scotland, Lesley Thomson QC, announced a review of prosecution policy related to agricultural crime.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie and policy manager Gemma Thomson met with the Solicitor General and her colleagues recently to discuss the review.

NFU Scotland is looking to hear from members who have been affected by any rural crime that that led to a prosecution but where they do not believe that the severity of the sanction applied was appropriate. This will help develop the evidence base to be used in discussions with the Crown Prosecution Service.

Policy Manager Gemma Thomson said:
“The full impact of agricultural crime on victims needs to be considered by prosecutors and presented as a matter of course to the court.

“The system needs to reflect on the damage and ramifications caused by criminal activity of any kind and then put forward in court cases in order for fines and compensation orders to fully reflect these concerns.

“We want to play an active role in the prosecution review process with a view to securing the necessary amendments needed to tackle agricultural and rural crime.

“We have some correspondence from our members where the sentence clearly hasn’t matched the scale or impact of the crime and we have shared these with the Solicitor General.

“We want to hear from those members who have been subjected to criminal activity and have experience of the case proceeding through the justice system but felt the severity of the sanction imposed was wrong. We need a prosecution service that deals appropriately with rural crime and such feedback would be invaluable in ensuring we get a system that is fit for purpose.”

NFUS

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