FARMERS are to be consulted in a review of agricultural crime prosecution policy in Scotland, the Solicitor General has announced.
Lesley Thomson, QC, has invited the National Farmers Union (NFU) Scotland to discuss what further action can be taken to deal with the problem.
The issue of agricultural crime was recently discussed at a round table event in the Scottish Parliament.
Those affected by agricultural crime expressed some concerns about the impact agricultural crime was having on communities throughout Scotland.
Ms Thomson said: “The Crown Office and the Procurator Fiscal Service treat agricultural crime extremely seriously.
“We are aware of the severe impact that crimes which result in damage or the death of livestock can have on the farming community and the ramifications for industry when the theft of vehicles, equipment and machinery is committed.
“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.”
She said she has now instructed a review of prosecution policy to focus on this area of criminality.
The Solicitor General added: “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.
“I have also instructed specialist prosecutors within the Crown’s Serious Organised Crime division to examine agricultural crimes with a view to taking action against them under Proceeds of Crime legislation.
“Seizing criminal assets in this way not only causes financial pain to those who commit such crimes, it also disrupts their ability to continue to run their criminal enterprise.”
Gemma Thomson, Legal and Technical Policy Manager for NFU Scotland, welcomed the move to include them in discussions on policy.
She 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.”
The Solicitor General was recently asked about the Crown’s approach to agricultural crime by Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGregor.
Ms Thomson has today written to Mr McGregor to inform him of the review.
The Crown Office regularly reviews prosecution policy to ensure it reflects the concerns of the public and takes account of emerging trends.
Recent reviews have included the approach taken to crimes committed on social media, offences against older persons and housebreaking.
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