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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cumbrian sheep rustler's appeal rejected

A sheep rustler who plundered the flock of a trusting neighbour has failed to persuade top judges his sentence was too harsh.

Robert Birnie photo
Robert Birnie

Robert Martin Birnie, of Graham Street, Longtown, was jailed for 45 months at Carlisle Crown Court in January after he was convicted of theft and witness intimidation.

Mr Justice Simon told London’s Appeal Court that Birnie targeted the prize flock of a neighbour, and told him he “had so many sheep he wouldn’t miss a few” when challenged about the thefts.

He was sentenced on the basis that he stole 70 sheep in all.

Birnie was arrested after his angry victim tracked some of the stolen animals to regional auctions where he spotted they were up for sale.

Birnie, 48, later went to the home of a witness where he “shouted abuse and made threats”, but was seen off, the court heard.

His case reached the Appeal Court as he challenged his sentence with claims that it was far too harsh.

But Mr Justice Simon said the witness intimidation showed Birnie was a “bully”, while his livestock thefts “undermined” the essential trust which must exist within any farming community.

“Significant planning was involved and he recruited accomplices to assist in his dishonesty”, said the judge.

“This sentence properly reflected his degree of culpability. Sheep rustling undermines the confidence and trust of the rural community.”

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