Irwin welcomes rural crime sentencing

MLA William Irwin
MLA William Irwin

Newry & Armagh DUP Assemblyman William Irwin MLA has welcomed the sentencing of a man from Gilford for a series of offences relating to animal and machinery theft.

Mr Irwin said the sentence of one year in prison for Christopher Potts (22) and a further year on licence, would send a message that rural crime is a serious issue and one which could mean prison for anyone found guilty.

Christopher Potts was arrested in October 2016, on suspicion of theft and handling stolen goods. The offences were carried out in the Portadown, Armagh and Rathfriland areas between September and October 2016 and involved the theft of farm animals and equipment.

Mr Irwin said the issue of rural crime is serious and one that has cost the farming community dearly in recent years.

He added: “The level of thefts of animals, machinery and farm equipment has been a scourge on our farming community and indeed it has served to really anger and frustrate farmers who have taken many security measures to try and beat the thieves.

“I welcome this court action and the one-year prison sentence handed down with also a year on license. This will send the message to criminals that rural crime is taken seriously by the PSNI and the Courts and the penalty of a spell in prison for anyone apprehended is certainly the correct legal response given the seriousness of this issue.

“The thefts occurred over a wide area and that also illustrates the fact that those involved in rural crime will travel significant distances. That can make it difficult for police to intercept criminals when they operate over a wide area, however I want to thank the PSNI for their work on this case as it does put down a marker that involvement in rural criminality or indeed any criminality will be faced down.

“It is important that the public continues to pass on any information which may be of use to the police in their investigations into rural crime, as any snippet of information could be a vital in any investigation,” Mr Irwin concluded.

Police in Lurgan have welcomed the sentencing. Inspector Leslie Badger said: “This successful conviction will hopefully demonstrate our determination to address rural crime and to hold those responsible to account.”