Farmers ‘under state of siege’ as crime rises

NFU deputy president Guy Smith. Picture: NFU

NFU deputy president Guy Smith. Picture: NFU - Credit: Archant

Rising agriculture-related crime means farmers often feel ‘under a state of siege’ from the criminal fraternity, a farm leader has warned.

Guy Smith at his home in St Osyth. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Guy Smith at his home in St Osyth. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Essex farmer and deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union Guy Smith, who farms at St Osyth, near Clacton-on-Sea, was responding to new figures from the Home Office which show farm-related crime and anti-social behavious has risen over the past four years.

The NFU successfully lobbied for agriculture to be represented in the 2017 Commercial Victimisation Survey, which showed just over a quarter (27%) of businesses in the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing sector experienced crime in 2017.

The NFU is calling for prompt, effective action to curb various illegal activities which plague farmers’ lives.

The most common type of crime was vandalism, with 37,000 incidents.

The Home Office research shows that the proportion of businesses experiencing agriculture-related crime and anti-social behaviour has risen since 2013, with 35% experiencing trespassing or unauthorised access of land or buildings, 26% falling prey to poaching, hare coursing or illegal hunting, 23% finding quad biking or use of other vehicles on their land, and 15% dealing with livestock worrying

“These new figures will come as no great surprise to farmers on the ground who often feel in a state of siege from the criminal fraternity,” said Mr Smith. “Every day the NFU hears from its members about this rural blight that has a seriously detrimental effect on lives and businesses. These crimes, whether it is fly-tipping, hare-coursing, burglary or theft, have more in common with organised crime than simply spontaneous acts, and it all impacts on the daily lives of farmers in far-reaching and costly ways.

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“Crime in the countryside is not a simple fix, and it needs commitment and resource from both the police and government. With suspected links to organised crime, any solution needs cross-departmental co-operation in government to address this issue with a consistent approach. The NFU has pushed hard to ensure agriculture is included in these statistics to provide solid evidence that can be presented to police and government.”