TWO men have been convicted of the theft and dishonest handling of property from farms across west Somerset following a lengthy police investigation.

Jeffrey Hughes, 45, of John Street, Bridgwater and Gareth Hayward, 19, of Coleridge Square, Bridgwater, both pleaded guilty to the charges, which related to a number of high-value thefts that took place during the first half of 2020.

These included thefts of quad bikes and trailers, a 4×4 vehicle and a motorhome with a combined value of around £45,000.

The pair appeared at Taunton Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday, February 10.

Hughes was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for two years. He was also made subject to an overnight curfew and fitted with an electronic tag.

Hayward was given a Community Order for 180 hours and disqualified from driving for two years.

The convictions follow a partnership operation set up to tackle rural crime across West Somerset, led by Sedgemoor Neighbourhood Policing Team in partnership with Avon and Somerset’s Rural Affairs Unit and our burglary focus team.

Superintendent Dickon Turner, Somerset Commander and Rural Affairs lead, said: “This conviction is a result of hard work by the Sedgemoor neighbourhood team, Rural Affairs Unit and our dedicated burglary officers.

“A thorough, intelligence-led investigation, assisted by members of the Somerset Farmwatch Community, has resulted in the disruption of serious criminal enterprise and enabled the recovery of high value stolen property, which we were pleased to be able to return to its rightful owners.

“We will continue to take a robust approach to pursuing offenders who threaten the well-being and livelihoods of people who live and work in our rural communities.

“We urge the public to continue to report rural thefts, damage and wildlife crimes to us, and tell us about any suspicious behaviour they witness.”