FARM raiders have been warned they face jail after a local sheriff promised a crackdown.
Soaring prices for scrap metal has led to an upsurge in thefts from farms and estates across the Borders.
It’s a nationwide problem and Sheriff Kevin Drummond’s promise to hit countryside criminals hard has been welcomed by leaders of the National Farmers Union in Scotland (NFUS).
On Monday the sheriff caged a raider from West Lothian who was caught with four metal farm gates in the back of a stolen van.
Landscape gardener Declan Gorry will remain behind bars until he is sentenced on August 15 after social workers have compiled reports.
Sheriff Drummond believes firm action is needed to tackle the growing crime of machinery and equipment being stolen.
At Selkirk Sheriff Court on Monday he declared: “Thefts of metal and machinery in the countryside is a growing and substantial problem which needs to be addressed at a fairly high level.
“The price of scrap metal is a contributory factor in this problem.”
And the sheriff’s remarks drew a welcome response from the NFUS.
The union’s regional manager Lisa Roberts told TheSouthern: “We welcome Sheriff Drummond’s commitment to a crackdown on countryside crime.
“The theft of any farm equipment can place a huge burden on any business – not only the financial implications of replacement but if, for example, gates are stolen there is the potential for stock to escape or that those fields cannot be used until the gates are replaced.”
Gorry, 29, was caught by police at the weekend on the A1 at Innerwick driving a Ford Transit flatbed which had been reported stolen from an industrial estate.
Police had also been alerted with number plate details by two witnesses who saw Gorry loading the metal farm gates into the back of the van at one of two farms he targeted.
He appeared from custody and admitted the thefts of four metal gates valued at £400 from Sunnyside and Marygold Farms near Reston.
He also pleaded guilty to driving without a licence and insurance – and possession of herbal cannabis.
Gorry, of Dick Gardens, Whitburn, admitted a lengthy list of previous convictions in Ireland and Scotland.
He claimed he didn’t know the vehicle had been stolen the previous day and that a friend had said he could borrow it for a drive down the A1 to the Borders.
The £400-a-week landscape gardener told police he decided to take the metal farm gates because he wanted to build a garden fence and provide a secure area at his home for his dogs.
Ms Roberts told us: “It is vital that farmers remain vigilant and report anything suspicious to their local police as these sort of crimes are unfortunately becoming more and more common.”
The union has joined forces with police in the Borders to operate a Farm Watch scheme. Farmers are encouraged to inform police and neighbours of any suspicious people in the area.