‘Criminals have all the rights and the victims have none’

The criminal is getting away because legislation hasn’t been passed through the Dail, according to Tipperary farmer and contractor Robert O’Shea.

Robert – who was a farm theft victim and has since become an advocate for rural crime prevention – spoke about his experiences and what he has tried to do since on tonight’s episode of FarmLand.

The Littleton man – who is also the chairperson for Save Our Local Community – recalled his encounters with criminal activity on his farm.

“In August ’14, my mother died; and she was buried on the Thursday. On the following Saturday night and Sunday night – one night after the other – I was hit here in the yard.

“On Saturday they came and they took diesel from the tanks that are in at the back of the pumps here, they took batteries out of some of the machines; and took power tools out of the workshop.

“Came back on the Sunday night and literally cleaned the place out: spanners; tow-chains; all the rest of the batteries – batteries out of an electric forklift; out of an electric cherry-picker that was in the yard; completely cleaned the place out.

We estimate somewhere between €20,000 and €25,000 worth of stuff was taken in those two occasions.

Robert said that there were numerous crimes in the area, prompting a group of locals who had been victim to these to come together to highlight the issue. This peaked with a meeting in the Anner Hotel, Thurles, at which over 2,000 people attended.

He said that the group saw this meeting as a tool for people to vent their anger at rural crime.

Since then the group – Save Our Local Community – has continued meeting, with its latest meet-up taking place earlier this week.

“In the interim we’ve met with the minister on two separate occasions and we’ve met with the Fianna Fail party spokesman as well as that, as well as all our local politicians.

Now, what has happened, we are claiming and we still reckon that, as a result of our meeting in Thurles, Operation Thor came into being.

Robert expressed his frustration with the lack of Government activity surrounding the issue of criminal activity in rural areas – particularly in contrast with its swift approach regarding drink-driving.

‘Criminals have all the rights’

“Criminals have all the rights and the victims have none. The Government was able to rush through legislation there for zero tolerance on drink driving – but yet when it comes to criminals they don’t want to do anything.”

Giving an example, Robert highlighted that electronic monitoring of repeat offenders had been put to the Dail in 2016 and had apparently passed; it has not yet been enacted. Bail law reform is much the same, he added.

Simple measures such as these would help Gardai to combat crime, he contended.

“Most of the bigger crimes, criminals have – we had figures for it – up to 200 previous convictions.

Any guy that has 200 previous convictions and still roaming around free – there’s something seriously wrong with that society.

The Tipp man and theft victim made the point that many smaller crimes are occurring which aren’t even being reported to the Gardai.

“A friend of mine, there during the fall some time, this particular lady had two lawnmowers, hedge-trimmers, an awful lot of garden stuff and her jeep emptied of diesel – and she didn’t even feel it worthwhile to report it to the Gardai because she said there was nothing going to happen.

“Even just down the road here in Thurles there in the last three weeks €11,000 worth of a quad taken from a business premises.

I noticed the Garda figures there said the crime levels are down – possibly because people aren’t just bothering to report it to them.

On the issue of CCTV, Robert said that General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) meant that there is often nobody willing to take on the responsibility of monitoring them at local authority level.

GDPR

He noted that €54,000 had been granted to the local regions of Littleton, Burgess and Birdhill for CCTV cameras when the last government left office; these are up but are still not active.

“If you pass through Littleton now you’ll see the cameras up – but they’re not actually active yet, because there’s no one to monitor them because of the GDPR.

“That’s a complete joke, and we’re told that it needs legislation – once again the criminal is getting away because legislation hasn’t been passed through the Dail.”