Our Readers' Opinions
June 23, 2006
Praedial Larceny – Who feels it knows it

Editor: Praedial Larceny in the Revised Edition of the laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines is defined as theft, and on summary conviction it carries a two-year sentence. The theft of livestock is now very rampant throughout St. Vincent. Speaking with most farmers, you get the sense of frustration that nothing is being done by the relevant authorities, especially the police, to address their problems.{{more}}

The government has taken the bull by the horns in organizing consultations on Praedial Larceny. The first consultation was held in Georgetown on Tuesday, June 13, 2006 and continued in South Rivers on Wednesday June 14, 2006. The high-powered team on the forum included C.O.P Keith Miller, Crown Consul Saboto Caesar of the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Mr. Philmore Isaacs of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Some of the major concerns of the farmers, so far, have been: the lenient penalties handed down to thieves; the idea of identification cards for legitimate farmers; branding of animals; receipts to be issued by farmers for their sales; persons refusing to give information to the police because of fear of reprisal by the criminals; and the formation of a Farmers’ Watch Scheme.

Without a buyer there is no seller. The animals are usually stolen and then hidden until the butchers trucks arrive to pick them up on certain days and in some lonely area. It’s difficult for the police to identify the buyers because the vehicle registration numbers are not recognized by the concerned residents. When contacted, the butchers whose names are sometimes mentioned, deny being in the areas at the time in question. Honest buyers, be it butchers, speculators or supermarkets, should ascertain whether the seller is a bona fide livestock owner or farmer. How could you buy a goat or sheep at $50 or $75 knowing that that said animal usually costs at least $200 or $250? A person handles stolen goods if knowing or believing them to be stolen dishonestly receives goods or undertakes or assists in their retention, removal or disposal. On summary conviction this charge carries a two-year sentence.

The police are further frustrated by the sentences handed down to persons caught stealing livestock or provisions. Most perpetrators get an average of three months in prison, or they may be charged a small fine, and in two months time they are out repeating the same acts. The farmers are now anxiously awaiting the “Improved strategy” that is soon to be implemented by the Police and hope that it includes stiffer penalties for both “sellers” and “buyers with amnesia” alike.