Crown to review prosecution policy on agricultural crime

Written by Alan Robertson on 3 March 2015 in News

Solicitor General also underlines need to make more proactive use of proceeds of crime legislation

A full review of the way agricultural crimes are prosecuted in Scotland is to be conducted.

The Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC announced this morning that the Crown Office is to revisit the area after the matter was subject to parliamentary scrutiny last week.

Rural crime cost Scotland around £1.9m in 2013 alone, recent estimates revealed.

Quad bikes, tools and fuel were among the most common items targeted by thieves over the last 12 months, while over 4,200 cases of livestock rustling were reported in Scotland in 2013.

“It was clear from the recent Justice Committee round table event on agricultural crime that it would be helpful for prosecutors to have more information on the full impact of the crime on victims and local businesses and not just the value stolen,” said Thomson.

“I have therefore instructed a review of prosecution policy in this area to focus on this area of criminality. The review will ensure that full consideration is given to the impact of these crimes and where appropriate this information is passed to the court for consideration in the event of a conviction.

“It is important that prosecution policy is aligned to the concerns of the public. We want to ensure that we have a comprehensive understanding of this area and that our policies take into account the context in which these crimes take place and the effect they can have.”

The Solicitor General has also instructed specialist prosecutors within the Crown’s Serious Organised Crime division to examine agricultural crimes for opportunities to use proceeds of crime legislation.

Gemma Thomson, legal and technical policy manager for NFU Scotland, said: “We are extremely encouraged by the positive response from the Solicitor General, in particular as it has come at a time when figures suggest that this type of crime is on the increase. NFU Scotland greatly supports a policy review, as this will ensure that it is fit for purpose and able to reflect modern circumstances.

“It is not just the immediate loss of livestock or equipment that causes distress and inconvenience to farmers, but the ongoing impact of consequential losses, including loss of fertility in animals and the cost of having to hire machinery.”

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