Illegal hunters risk ute seizures amid rural crime crackdown in NSW – ABC Rural
Illegal hunters in New South Wales now risk losing one of their most valuable possessions, with police vowing to seize their vehicles as part of a crackdown on trespassing.
The new measure follows an extensive review of police responses to rural crime in the state, along with a significant reorganisation of rural crime officers and their interaction with other police and government agencies.
In the first application of the new tactic, a magistrate granted a police request not to return a hunter’s truck confiscated in the state’s west after he was charged with illegal hunting and trespass.
NSW Farmers Rural Crime policy officer Isabella McDougal said the penalty will send a powerful message to anyone illegally accessing rural properties.
“Finally we are seeing the judicial outcome,” she said.
“Members have been very reluctant to report rural crime because of the belief that nothing will happen.
Stress of hunting and trespass on isolated farmers
Illegal hunting is a fraught topic across rural New South Wales, with farmers telling stories of hearing gunshots at night near their houses, and finding fences cut by hunters on their properties without permission.
There are stories of angry encounters involving threats and firearms, of shots fired over the top of people’s heads and of late night pursuits across rugged country.
Farmers say the damage to property can potentially run into thousands of dollars, and also includes possible risk to livestock who may be injured by hunters, disturbed at their feed, or separated from their young.
Police say there is also a strong sense that hunters may use their trespass onto properties as an opportunity to scope them out for possible theft of machinery and equipment, diesel and valuable livestock.
The New South Wales Farmers Association has been working closely in conjunction with the NSW Police Rural Crime Prevention Team, in the wake of the Bradshaw review into rural crime, and says the policing response is only one part of the puzzle.
Review leader applauds seizure
Retired former Assistant Commissioner Steve Bradshaw, who headed up the NSW review into the response to rural crime, has welcomed this recent legal decision to confiscate the hunter’s vehicle.
“These are often very expensive vehicles,” he said.
“They’re often very tough vehicles like four wheel drives, to do some of the things they are accused of, like driving through fences and speeding across very rough terrain.
Mr Bradshaw said it was important the magistrates are made aware of the huge impact that rural crimes such as trespass and illegal hunting can have on farmers and their sense of security.
But he reiterated the need for them to remain independent of the police process.
“You must always have the separation of powers,” he said.
“But it is important that magistrates who, in the main, come from the metropolitan area — in many cases on a ‘fly-in, fly-out’ basis — have a sense of the impact of rural crime on land-holders.”