Tees

County Durham 'stolen sheep' pair jailed for three years

Neville and Philip Raine Image copyright Durham Police
Image caption Former Swaledale champion breeder Neville Raine and his nephew Philip Raine farmed near Bowes in County Durham

Two farmers convicted of possessing more than 100 sheep which did not belong to them have been jailed.

Charles Raine, 66, known as Neville, and his nephew Philip Raine, 47, were sentenced to three years in prison.

The pair, from County Durham, were last month found guilty by a jury at Teesside Crown Court of conspiracy to use criminal property.

Police investigating missing ewes organised identity parades to reunite them with their rightful owners.

The court was told the value of the sheep was just under £25,000.

Phillip Raine's partner Shirley Straughan, 41, was cleared of the same charge.

'Complete contempt'

In all, 16 farmers lost sheep between 2010 and 2013.

In victim impact statements read out in court some said they felt "betrayed".

More than 115 animals were identified as coming from farms in County Durham, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, despite usual markers being removed.

Identity tags were found on the Raine's farms in Bowes.

Image caption Sheep identity parades were held by police at a mart in Kirkby Stephen in 2013

Speaking after the sentencing, Det Insp Paul Phillips of Durham Police, who led the investigation, said: "This inquiry has revealed the complete contempt the two men convicted today have for other farmers.

"They have broken the rules of the unwritten 'Shepherd's Bible' which has guided sheep farmers for generations. Farmers need to be able to trust their neighbours and they have shown themselves unworthy of that trust.

"We believe the force is the first to secure a prosecution under the Proceeds of Crime Act connected to the theft of sheep.

"Hopefully, this will... send a strong message to those who might be tempted to steal their neighbour's animals that if they do, will be brought to justice."

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