A JUDGE concerned at a spate of thefts of farm machinery in Gloucestershire today delayed sentencing a Cotswold farmer who admitted receiving a stolen tractor and 4X4.

Judge Jamie Tabor QC said he wanted to hear more from a senior police officer about the extent of rural crime in the county before dealing with Nigel Jackson of North Park Farm, Cowley.

Jackson, 62, pleaded guilty at Gloucester Crown Court to dishonestly handling a £24,000 tractor stolen from a farm in Newbury, Berks, and a 4x4 land vehicle taken from a farm in Somerset.

Prosecutor Derek Ryder said that on October 5 last year police went with a search warrant to Jackson's farm. They searched a barn and found the tractor, which had been taken from Halfway Farm, near Newbury, in April last year.

Also found was the land vehicle valued at £7,000, which had been stolen from Somerset in July last year.

Jackson told police he had bought them from a man for cash - £5,000 for the tractor and £2,000 for the other vehicle.

"He accepted that it was suspicious," said Mr Ryder. "He accepted he had paid far below an acceptable price.

"He said he had been sold the tractor by someone he knew as Larry."

Jackson has previous convictions for similar offences and has in the past served a jail term, Mr Ryder said.

Judge Tabor commented "There has been an epidemic of thefts from farms and farm type premises in this county.

"I am not quite sure to what it extent it is over and above the normal.

"My own personal feeling is that it is far exceeding what has been going on hitherto.

"I need to know from a senior police officer precisely what is going on. Whenever I meet a farmer I am told he has had a tractor stolen.

"I need to have a perspective of that, not least so I can fairly sentence this man. I direct that a senior police officer, preferably a Superintendent, who is responsible for rural crimne attends the sentencing hearing.

"The defendant is in danger of going to prison."

Jackson was bailed until April 4.