Harsher penalties for rustlers
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.