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Home secretary Priti Patel hears rural crime concerns at Essex farm meeting

Home secretary Priti Patel met Essex farmers in her Witham constituency. Picture: Adam Scott / NFU

Home secretary Priti Patel met Essex farmers in her Witham constituency. Picture: Adam Scott / NFU

Adam Scott / NFU

Rural crime and support for green fuel topped the agenda when home secretary Priti Patel met farmers within her Essex constituency.

The meeting with the Witham MP was hosted by Simon Brice on his farm near Rivenhall and chaired by Nicholas Reed, chairman of the Braintree branch of the National Farmers' Union (NFU).

Farmers called for action to tackle rural crime such as hare coursing and illegal encampments, where current laws do not provide the police with sufficient powers to act quickly.

They also made the case for rural policing to receive a fair share of the 20,000 extra police officers that prime minister Boris Johnson announced would be recruited across England and Wales during the next three years.

Mr Reed said: "We stressed that hare coursing is far more serious and upsetting than most people probably realise. It's an ongoing issue and farmers feel quite threatened. The majority of incidents probably go unreported to the police.

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"You can't just politely ask the coursers to go away because they know who you are and where you live."

The NFU is suggesting a number of measures to tackle hare coursing. Proposals include amending the 1831 Game Act to give police and magistrates greater powers to seize dogs and reclaim associated kennelling costs from offenders.

It also wants to see Criminal Behaviour Orders, which can ban individuals from hare coursing in a particular county, applied across a wider geographic area, rather than simply within the county where the incident took place.

Mr Reed said Ms Patel appeared to be sympathetic to farmers' concerns and asked for further information to be sent to her.

NFU members also asked Ms Patel to support calls for E10 - a type of petrol which contains 10% renewable bioethanol - to be introduced by 2020, to help the UK reach its "net zero" targets.

The fuel currently common on UK forecourts is E5, which only contains 5% renewable bioethanol. The NFU says adopting E10 would boost UK wheat usage by two million tonnes and provide animal feed as a co-product, helping to reduce reliance on imported soya.

A separate meeting is being arranged with the minister on the issue of migrant labour.

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