Call for tougher scrap rule to stop farm crime

Tougher rules on regulating scrap metal dealers need to be introduced if the scourge of metal thefts on farms is going to be properly tackled, the NFU has said.

Speaking at the Association of Chief Police Officers first conference on rural crime in Kettering on Thursday (10 November), NFU president Peter Kendall said a crack-down on metal crime had to begin to help farmers.

“It is not just the metal which is stolen from farms which is the problem, although that can be bad enough, if it’s a metal gate which is taken and livestock get out onto a main road,” he told senior police officers and officials.

“The biggest problem is the knock-on effects when copper cabling has been targeted and entire areas lose their broadband access.  For farms and other rural businesses, which are increasingly dependent on the internet to run their business, the disruption can be huge.”

Mr Kendall said the union supported a Bill being promoted by Labour’s Lord Faulkner in the House of Lords to strengthen the registration of scrap metal dealers.

Lord Faulkner has called for it to be made illegal for dealers to pay cash for metal, making it easier for police to trace stolen goods.

“The vast majority of scrap metal dealers run good businesses to high standards,” Mr Kendall said. “It is the unregistered dealers who are the problem and that is where the crackdown should be targeted.”

He also called for urgent action to be taken to discourage illegal fly-tipping on farmland.

“Farm minister Jim Paice has proposed a fly-tipping summit which is welcome first step. But we need to move on from talking and gathering more evidence.

“We want a common-sense approach, which would allow farmers to take action to clear illegally dumped rubbish to the nearest tip, without the hassle of waste license or charge.”

Praising police for taking positive steps in helping work together with farmers to tackle rural crime, Mr Kendall said farm-watch schemes and email networks were the key to stopping the problem and bringing about prosecutions.

“Rural crime is a grim reality and something that’s important to most farmers,” he added. “We have to find ways of working to team up to protect our space.”

Chief Constable Richard Crompton, ACPO lead for wildlife and rural crime, said the police often did a poor job in showing how seriously they took rural crime.

“We are addressing it using specialist and expensive equipment. Often we are not seen by people in the countryside, but we’re out there.

“Sometimes farmers can be their own worst enemies through by not taking the most basic crime-prevention measures,” he added.

“Farmers can do simple things to make a big difference to making their farms less attractive to thieves.”

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