The vast majority of Irish farmers work tirelessly to maintain the fabric of their businesses and, in so doing, act to improve the quality of the environment both for their own families and for those many thousands of visitors who regularly enjoy the breath taking beauty of our rural areas.

These people tick every box and really do reflect everything that is positive about Irish agriculture.

But, every now and then, the court system brings to light other types of people, who are referred to in the press as ‘farmers’.

But, in reality, these people are the very antithesis of what decent farmers stand for in terms of caring for animals and adding to the conservation value of their land.

Invariably, these people are brought to book on the back of them infringing one or other animal welfare or environment related regulations.

And so far so good: it is important that these people are brought to book. However, beyond this point judges seem to take an approach to sentencing that is extremely lenient, given the nature of the offences brought to their attention.

I strongly hold to the view that in cases where farmers have been found guilty of causing a serious farm-related pollution incident then that person should be fined heavily – possibly jailed – and expected to cover all relevant clean-up costs.

And, in the case of a serious animal welfare breach, the person should serve an appropriate jail term, have his farm business number removed and told that he will never be allowed to keep livestock again.

In truth, there have been too many instances in the press of late featuring court cases which have seen people receiving no more than a slap on the wrist, after being found guilty of very serious breaches to the various codes of farm practise.

All of this sends out the wrong message to the public at large. Not alone are they reading and hearing about these incidents happening in the first place. But they are also left with the view that both the government and the judiciary do not place any great significance on these matters, given the seeming light touch approach to sentencing.

It’s time the authorities got really tough with rogue farmers.