Crim­i­nals look out as au­thor­i­ties beef up fo­cus on farm crime

The Oban Times - - Farming -

SCOT­LAND’S top pub­lic pros­e­cu­tor has promised a fresh ap­proach to tack­ling farm and ru­ral crime.

In a new Crown Of­fice pol­icy, a hard line will be taken in re­la­tion to crimes such as the theft of farm ve­hi­cles, ma­chin­ery, equip­ment, fuel and live­stock; van­dal­ism and fire-rais­ing com­mit­ted against farm property; and the wor­ry­ing of live­stock.

Crown Of­fice and Procu­ra­tor Fis­cal Ser­vice (COPFS) staff who deal with th­ese cases will now be given train­ing in the sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial and emo­tional im­pact that agri­cul­tural of­fences can have on ru­ral busi­nesses, com­mu­ni­ties and in­di­vid­u­als.

The Crown Of­fice also plans to en­sure that this in­for­ma­tion is recorded by po­lice from the ear­li­est stages of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pre­sented to the sher­iff or judge in or­der that they can de­cide on the ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence. In ad­di­tion, when­ever of­fences in­volve or­gan­ised crim­i­nal­ity, they will be dealt with by spe­cial­ist pros­e­cu­tors within COPFS Se­ri­ous and Or­gan­ised Crime Di­vi­sion, who will use Pro­ceeds of Crime leg­is­la­tion to max­imise the re­cov­ery of money and as­sets.

So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral, Les­ley Thom­son QC, said: ‘All too of­ten, the pub­lic fo­cus of crime is on cities and built-up ar­eas.

‘But of course we know that of­fend­ing is not lim­ited to the ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, and as pros­e­cu­tors it is our duty to en­sure agri­cul­tural com­mu­ni­ties are pro­tected, lis­tened to and their con­cerns ad­dressed.

‘We know, too, that farms can be sub­ject to par­tic­u­lar types of crime, which in turn can have a par­tic­u­larly pro­found ef­fect both in re­in­forc­ing a sense of vul­ner­a­bil­ity and caus­ing last­ing dam­age to agri­cul­tural busi­nesses.

‘We are com­mit­ted to a con­tin­u­ing re­la­tion­ship with Po­lice Scot­land, the Na­tional Farm­ers Union for Scot­land, Scot­tish Land and Es­tates and the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment in or­der to en­sure that vic­tims are fully rep­re­sented through­out the crim­i­nal process and those who com­mit th­ese crimes are brought to face the full force of the law.’

Al­lan Bowie, NFU Scot­land Pres­i­dent, said: ‘NFUS would like to thank the Crown Of­fice for the op­por­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in the work­ing group which was set up to ex­am­ine pol­icy in this area. NFU Scot­land mem­bers who have en­gaged with us have al­lowed the union to pro­vide real life ex­am­ples of the true im­pacts of agri­cul­tural crime.

‘The out­come of the work will pro­vide re­as­sur­ance to our mem­bers that agri­cul­tural crime will be treated se­ri­ously, and also that pol­icy in this area is up to date and fit for pur­pose. We look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work with COPFS and part­ners to en­sure that those who com­mit th­ese crimes are brought to face the full force of the law.’

Chief Su­per­in­ten­dent Gavin Robertson added: ‘Po­lice Scot­land was pleased to be part of the re­view group and very much wel­comes the new ap­proach an­nounced by the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral. As mem­bers of the Scot­tish Part­ner­ship Against Ru­ral Crime, we are work­ing hard to pre­vent and re­duce ru­ral crime af­fect­ing Scot­land, driv­ing and sup­port­ing work at lo­cal level across the coun­try.

‘Where a crime oc­curs, the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer will en­sure the full emo­tional and fi­nan­cial im­pact felt by peo­ple and busi­nesses af­fected is con­tained in any po­lice re­port for con­sid­er­a­tion by pros­e­cu­tors.

‘We will also seek ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to iden­tify and re­cover money and as­sets from the crim­i­nals in­volved and dis­rupt their ac­tiv­i­ties.’

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