Hutchinson wants courts to order thieves to compensate farmers
J.C. Hutchinson has given the assurance that at least one new effective measure to address farm theft will be in place by year end.
Addressing the recent 124th annual general meeting of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) at the Denbigh Showground in Clarendon, he said that as a farmer, he understood the frustration and the further loss of time and money spent on pursuing farm-theft cases. He said that this is something he intends to address in one fell swoop.
“We find that many times we go to court when they catch the thief and you spend a lot of money going to court, but when they are fined, it is just like a tap on the wrist and they send them out to go steal again,” said Hutchinson, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.
“We going to put it in the Agricultural Produce Act that they must pay back the farmer the cost of whatever they have stolen on top of the fines that they are going to be charged. It is one that we not guessing and spelling about that before the end of the year. That will be in the Produce Act,” he said.
Hutchinson, who was junior minister for agriculture in a previous Jamaica Labour Party administration, has been consistent in his insistence that massive court fines should be levelled against persons who commit farm theft or those who fail to produce receipts for agricultural goods in their possession.
In May 2012, he brought a private member’s motion to Parliament seeking support for an amendment to the Agriculture Produce Act. In giving notice then, he called for a repeal of Section 37 of the law, which states that farmers who do not offer a receipt for goods sold can be charged up to $250,000.
Hutchinson indicated then that he wanted the law amended to read that a distributor or end user of agricultural produce who fails to produce a receipt or invoice from a farmer or vendor for goods in his/her possession should be subject to a fine not exceeding $1 million.