Criminals look out as authorities beef up focus on farm crime
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.’