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"So home owners know how far they can go in defending their property"
 real 28k

Monday, 24 April, 2000, 13:08 GMT 14:08 UK
Tories warn of rural vigilantes

Campaigners want more bobbies in the countryside
Increasing numbers of people may be tempted to confront burglars instead of waiting for police help, a group of Tory MPs has warned.

They say dwindling confidence in the police must prompt the government to "look seriously" at the consequences of the Tony Martin case.

Ex-Cabinet ministers Gillian Shephard, John McGregor, David Prior and Keith Simpson voiced their fears in a joint statement issued following a government pledge to inject cash into rural policing.

"Many are saying that, like Tony Martin, they too would have defended themselves if the police were unable to help them," the statement said.

"The possibility of a breakdown in law and order in our countryside is real. Action is needed now."

Gillian Shephard represents Norfolk South West, the constituency of Tony Martin, who is appealing against his conviction for murdering a teenage burglar.

Clarity sought

The MPs' call for action also follows a plea by Jim Wilson, chairman of the Norfolk Police Authority, for greater clarity in self-defence laws.

Ministers are proposing to tackle rural fears on crime in the wake of the Tony Martin case by offering extra cash for policing isolated areas.

The extra grants - likely to run into tens of millions - come after a Home Office study last year into the problems of population density and policing, according to reports.

Thieves are travelling further afield
The move, expected to be set out in the Treasury spending review in July, is a response to an outcry over the disappearance of visible police forces in rural areas.

A delegation from rural police services has held discussions with Charles Clarke, the police minister and MP for a Norfolk constituency, over the formula for funding forces in sparsely populated areas, according to The Times.

Crime research

He was reported by the Guardian to have conceded the argument for further cash for rural police forces, saying independent research commissioned by the Home Office was "well made and widely accepted".

The research, by ORH Ltd, concluded that the number of officers required for some incidents in rural areas was three times more than those needed by urban forces.

Some farmers have lost confidence in the police
Mr Clarke has also said that the report's findings have wide support among ministers.

The extra cash would help police staff more visible rural policing policies.

Police forces likely to benefit from a spending increase for their "sparsity factor" include Devon and Cornwall and Norfolk.

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19 Apr 00 | UK
Crime in the countryside
23 Apr 00 | UK
Jailed farmer to appeal
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