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Dublin: 14°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Rural 'spotters' make money spying on farmers and selling information to criminal gangs

It is difficult for gardaí to secure prosecutions against these people as they need to link them directly to the crime.

Image: farmyard image via Shutterstock

FARMERS HAVE EXPRESSED their concern about ‘spotters’ in rural areas who are watching farms and then selling information to roaming criminal gangs.

The issue was raised by Kildare farmer Liam Dunne, who was the victim of a farmyard theft in June. He said “there’s actually people selling information out there”. He also said he and other farmers in his area were aware of who the local spotters were but that they “can’t be prosecuted for selling information”.

“It’s widespread, not just in farming alone, but in other business as well, like commercial businesses and warehouses as well. People are always on the lookout and are willing to sell on information to somebody else who’s prepared to go ahead and steal whatever is on offer and take a chance,” Detective Garda Eugene O’Sullivan told reporters yesterday.

He said it is, in most cases, the person who handles the stolen property, or the person who is in possession of it, who is prosecuted.

It is difficult, therefore, to secure a prosecution when it comes to a person who has passed on information to these gangs.

“You have to link them to the actual crime itself and it’s the proof, there are a number of proofs that are required for that,” he said.

“They can be interviewed in relation to the investigation part of it, but that may not be enough to prosecute them.”

There are more than 2,000 thefts from farmyards reported each year in Ireland and Liam Dunne spoke yesterday about the impact the theft had on his family.

He described the incident as “quite traumatic”, adding that his family, for weeks afterwards, would wake at night hearing noises out in the yard.

“They should normally have been fast asleep”.

Farmers are being urged to secure and register their vehicles and members of the public are asked only to buy vehicles and machinery from reputable agents.

If anyone has information on suspicious activity or thefts in their area, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 1800 25 00 25.

Read: ‘An invasion of a place I grew up in, where I always felt safe’ – Farmers speak of trauma after thefts>

 Read: A new fund could give farmers a chance to diversify their businesses>

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