Shropshire Star

Farmers in Shropshire region placing CCTV on land to catch hay bale arsonists

Farmers and the police across the West Mercia Region that includes Shropshire are appealing to hay bale arsonists to think about the real victims of their actions.

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Hay bale arson caught on camera. Picture: West Mercia Police

Throughout the winter months farmers supplement their animals' feed with hay but setting fire to bales in fields has perversely become some people's idea of fun.

But the actions are not harmless fun - it's arson, a criminal offence, a rural business crime officer says. It is also extremely dangerous, thoughtless and the victims, besides the farmers who lose thousands of pounds, are the animals whose food and infrastructure is being set on fire.

Sophie Sandison, West Mercia Police Rural and Business Crime Officer said: “What we have seen is young people straying onto private land and setting light to food stocks.

“With farmers making sure their livestock have enough food out in the fields, there are a few people who think setting animal feed on fire is fun. I’d like to assure them that it’s not, that they are committing an offence and, in a lot of cases, they are being watched.

“Many farmers, like Phil Mitchell, have strategically placed covert cameras on their land and are then providing us with the footage.

“With this we are able to take effective action and if you are starting fires, you are committing several crimes and you can expect us to trace you and knock at your door.

“While setting light to a single bale of hay might not seem serious, should the fire spread to other bales, buildings or clothing then the consequences could be significant in terms of damage, injury and the resources required to bring the fire under control.”

Phil Mitchell, who is a farmer from North Worcestershire, said: “The financial loss, so far, will be about £1,000. The main problem is the sheep being short of feed to supplement the grass and the worry of going over there to see if we have been a victim again - because after six times it’s become a bit of a tribulation.

“Looking after sheep in the late autumn and early winter in these wet and sometimes cold conditions is hard enough without having to deal with the consequences of these sort of actions.”

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