Harsher penal­ties for rustlers

The Hastings Mail - - WHAT’S ON - GER­ARD HUTCHING

Rustlers could be faced with harsher penal­ties if a change in the law pro­ceeds.

Na­tional MP Ian McKelvie has in­tro­duced a pri­vate mem­ber’s Bill in Par­lia­ment which could re­sult in of­fend­ers los­ing ve­hi­cles and equip­ment used in a crime, and a max­i­mum fine of $5000.

The mea­sure re­ceived cross-party sup­port and has been sent to a se­lect com­mit­tee for con­sid­er­a­tion. Stricter penal­ties were needed be­cause live­stock theft cost farm­ers about $120 mil­lion a year, ac­cord­ing to a Fed­er­ated Farm­ers es­ti­mate.

‘‘The cur­rent law of­fers no de­ter­rent and the penal­ties don’t re­flect the grav­ity of the crime or the likely suf­fer­ing of an an­i­mal be­ing slaugh­tered by a rank am­a­teur.

‘‘Th­ese crimes are of­ten com­mit­ted at night in the more re­mote parts of New Zealand. Small-scale, op­por­tunis­tic grabs of half a dozen sheep or cows are rel­a­tively com­mon, but po­lice and MPI say so­phis­ti­cated gangs with links to or­gan­ised crime are in­creas­ingly mount­ing well-planned raids on farms,’’ McKelvie said.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers se­cu­rity spokesman Miles An­der­son said when the Bill was mooted last year and cho­sen by bal­lot to go through, it had the sup­port of all par­ties.

A Feds sur­vey last year showed 41 per cent of farm­ers had been the vic­tims of theft over the two years be­fore. Stock theft was the ma­jor crime (38 per cent), fol­lowed by ve­hi­cles and equip­ment (33 per cent), and fuel (25 per cent). Only 6 per cent of prop­erty had been re­cov­ered.

An­der­son said of­ten crimes were not re­ported be­cause farm­ers had lit­tle faith peo­ple would get caught. Of of­fend­ers, 44 per cent were known to farm­ers or were for­mer work­ers.

‘‘It makes sense be­cause they have knowl­edge of the prop­erty and qual­ity of the an­i­mals they are steal­ing. In some cases it re­quires a high level of or­gan­i­sa­tion.’’

The fact that 60 per cent of stock thefts were not re­ported was dis­ap­point­ing. Com­mon rea­sons cited in­cluded that farm­ers did not think po­lice would be in­ter­ested, that po­lice re­sources were too stretched, or that the theft was dis­cov­ered days or weeks af­ter it hap­pened.

The Sen­tenc­ing (Live­stock Rustling) Amend­ment Bill was sent to a se­lect com­mit­tee be­fore its sec­ond read­ing.

In 2010, Hawke’s Bay po­lice un­cov­ered a home butch­ery op­er­a­tion by three sheep rustlers.

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