Submit your email address below to receive email updates from Cumbria24.
A team of thieves who targeted farms and rural properties across Cumbria were sentenced to a total of 15 years at Carlisle Crown Court, Thursday December 1.
The four men, all from Carlisle, were found guilty of a string of thefts across rural North Cumbria, and of conspiring to commit even more offences.
The men were captured by police in February as they returned to Carlisle after stealing more than a ton of lead from Lowther Castle near Penrith.
It was just one of several crimes committed between them over an eight-month period between June 2010 and February 2011.
Mark Robinson, 46, of Thompson Street, off London Road, was found guilty of a total of seven offences – stealing a tractor from a farm at Tebay, stealing copper cylinders from a farm at Coniston, stealing builders’ equipment and diesel from a residential home at Cotehill, stealing a generator from a garage at Armathwaite, stealing £2,000 worth of lead from the roof of Lowther Castle, and of conspiring with the others to commit such offences. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison for conspiracy to steal, and 3 years for the thefts, to run concurrently.
Alistair Tuddenham, 44, of Grierson Road, Upperby, was found guilty of the £2,000 theft of lead from the roof of Lowther Castle and the theft of the tractor from a farm at Tebay and of conspiring with the others to steal between June 2010 and February 2011. He was sentenced to 3 years for conspiracy to steal, and 2 years for the thefts, to run concurrently.
Scott Rumney Mulholland, 23, of Blackwell Road, Upperby, was found guilty of the £2,000 theft of lead from the roof of Lowther Castle, the theft of the tractor from a farm at Tebay and of conspiring with the others to steal between June 2010 and February 2011. He was sentenced to 2.5 years for conspiracy to steal and 18 months for the thefts, to run concurrently.
Paul Gibbons, 41, of Trafalgar Street, Denton Holme, pleaded guilty to stealing the copper cylinders from a farm at Coniston and the £2,000 theft of lead from the roof of Lowther Castle and of conspiring with the others to steal between June 2010 and February 2011. He was sentenced to 4.5 years for conspiracy to steal and 2.5 years for the thefts, to run concurrently.
As well as being handed prison sentences, the men were also granted ASBOs, which will restrict their movements when they leave prison, and further protect rural communities in Cumbria.
DCI Lee Johnson, head of CID for North Cumbria, said: “Robinson, Tuddenham, Mulholland and Gibbons were an organised crime group, who preyed on farms and rural properties across Cumbria.
“Rural crime can often be felt more keenly than urban crime because victims are more isolated and vulnerable. If one farm or property is targeted it increases the fear of crime for miles around and leaves the whole community feeling more susceptible.
“These men were a pain in our side for a number of months, but we pursued them doggedly, and thanks to the vigilance of our officers and local communities, they are now behind bars.
“Tackling rural crime is a priority for Cumbria Police and it is pleasing to see that the judge also recognised the impact these crimes have had on the victims, by handing stiff sentences to the offenders.
“There is no doubt that farms and rural properties across Cumbria are safer now that these men are behind bars, but communities should not become complacent. By increasing your security, you decrease the chances of becoming a victim.
“These men would stake out their intended targets in advance, and when challenged, would make up an excuse that they were looking for a vehicle for sale. Within weeks the property would then be targeted, so vigilance is key. It is essential that you report suspicious activity to police immediately, and note down the registration details of suspicious vehicles.
“For further information about how to secure your property, contact your local neighbourhood policing team. You can also stay ahead of the game by joining our Farmwatch scheme, which will keep you updated on crime trends and issues in your area.”
David Jones, NFU Mutual Agent in Cockermouth, added: “No matter what the statistics say, theft and crime in rural areas is highly organised and is a very real threat at all times of year.
“Thieves in our area won’t just target tractors, land rovers and farm machinery, they can also make money from stealing and selling smaller items like quad bikes and power tools that can be stolen and sold on in the blink of an eye.
“People should make sure their quad bikes and power tools are secured in a locked building when they’re not being used. Unless they’re marked and identifiable, many farm and household items can be difficult to trace but very simple for criminals to sell.”