The Bishop of St Albans has called for government action on rural crime following the publication of a report revealing farmers are resorting to 'medieval' security methods.
The report from NFU Mutual says rural crime cost the UK £44.5 million last year, an increase of 13.4 per cent on the previous year. As well as livestock theft, agricultural vehicles, quad bikes, tools and machinery are also targeted. Fly tipping affects two-thirds of farmers, who are forced to clear the rubbish themselves, sometimes at a cost of thousands of pounds. Many farmers have resorted to building earthworks and reinforced gates to try to deter thieves.
The report also draws attention to the under-resourcing of rural police, leading to farmers believing it is a waste of time to report crime.
Rt Rev Alan Smith, the Church of England's lead bishop on rural affairs, said: 'This is no surprise for those of us who are in touch with rural areas and highlights the scale of crime in the countryside.
'One important aspect is the increasing incidence of fly tipping, which is a problem I hear raised repeatedly in my diocese which covers parts of Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
'The Government claims that it has given councils sufficient powers to deal with the problem.
'Yet Defra's own figures reveal that 51 per cent of local authorities have yet to have a single prosecution and there have been no fines imposed by 44 per cent of local authorities.
'If local authorities are not prepared to act then surely central government needs to take more drastic action to tackle this crime?'