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Somerset pair sentenced after farm machinery and plant thefts

DOZENS of pieces of stolen farm plant and machinery were recovered when police rumbled a crime operation in Somerset.

Officers working as part of the Operation Remedy team – specialising in serial burglaries – found 20 pieces of stolen machinery and plant when thy raided a farm in South Barrow, near Sparkford in October 2020.

Harry Hollowell, 25, of Jellicoe Road, Yeovil, and 23-year-old Vincent Bruce, of Bearley Lane, Tintinhull, have now been sentenced after admitting conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

The pair appeared at Bristol Crown Court on December 22 after the court was told they had been purchasing farm machinery stolen from farms in the Sedgemoor area of Somerset throughout 2020.

They also bought and sold stolen plant machinery which had been taken from building sites in the Cardiff area that year, all of which caused significant financial losses to many farmers, landowners and small businesses.

Hollowell was sentenced to three years and two months imprisonment and Bruce for one year and four months. Bruce had his sentence suspended for two years.

Sentencing, HHJ McMillan said Hollowell had “played the leading role in a professional and sophisticated enterprise” and had profited from the loss and stress of people who were “almost like neighbours”.

A third man, 43-year-old Piotr Szor, from Reading, was sentenced at the same time as Hollowell and Bruce after pleading guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods for an unrelated incident.

The court heard how in October 2020, a tractor and telehandler worth around £80,000 were stolen from a farm burglary in east Somerset.

Szor had organised for the machinery to be loaded onto a lorry bound for Poland.

However, officers intercepted the lorry, recovered the machinery, and arrested Szor for his involvement.

He was sentenced to one year imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Speaking following the sentence, Det Supt James Raphael said: “The theft of plant and agricultural machinery and tools have a detrimental impact on the farming community who work tirelessly to provide for our communities.

“The needless acts of Hollowell, Bruce and Szor has cost the victims hundreds of thousands of pounds in both materials and time.

“We are dedicated to supporting our rural communities and this case is a great example of the work carried out by our Operation Remedy and Rural Affairs Unit, working in collaboration with our vehicle examiners.

“We hope it is reassuring to people in the rural community that action is being taken against criminals who steal the livelihoods of others.”

The theft of agricultural plant and machinery is a growing issue across the UK, he added, saying the expensive items are easy to sell for profit, so targeted by organised criminal groups.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset, Mark Shelford, added: “This case serves as a stern reminder of the scale of rural crime, which is why as Police and Crime Commissioner, combating rural crime is one of my top priorities.

“These criminal activities have financial, time, and emotional impacts on the farming community who work tirelessly to provide for our communities.

“I applaud the work done by Operation Remedy team in bringing these prolific offenders to justice and I encourage anyone affected by farm machinery theft to report it to the police.”

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