Birmingham & Black Country

Sheepish police blur faces of lambs at centre of alleged rustling

Sheep in car with faces blurred Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption West Midlands Police said the lambs identity was "protected due to their age and vulnerability"

Social media sites have been rammed with confusion after police released blurred images of victims of crime - who happened to be sheep.

The lambs' identity was "protected due to their age and vulnerability", West Midlands Police said.

The woolly passengers were spotted after they were herded into the back of a car and driven around by suspected rustlers.

But the subsequent image circulated by the force turned out to be a joke.

Nic Barlow commented on Facebook: "I wondered why the picture looked a bit woolly."

Abbas Zen said: "It would be an animal rights issue if they didn't [blur the images]."

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption The Ford Galaxy carrying three sheep was crashed into a parked car

Other people were less amused by the force's sense of fun.

"Police show criminal sense of humour as they release pictures of stolen sheep with pixelated faces," tweeted Solene Deplanche.

Officers said three suspected sheep rustlers found in the car near Hob Moor Road, Yardley in Birmingham were rounded up in nearby gardens - with one up a tree and another penned in a conservatory.

The men aged 22, 27, and 28, were arrested on suspicion of theft, while police traced owners of the sheep.

Jokes aside, officers said the lambs were unhurt and have been temporarily re-homed on a farm in Sheldon.

Analysis: A sheepish decision?

By Dominic Casciani, BBC News home affairs correspondent

British police have guidelines over what information they reveal about victims of crime - but was there a bit of woolly thinking in the West Midlands force after journalists were given an image obscuring the faces of allegedly-rustled lambs?

The Data Protection Act and Article 8 of the Human Rights Act, which covers family and private life, require the police to protect personal information unless there is a good reason to release it.

My mint sources tell me that an officer in the case blurred the image as a joke.

He presumably concluded he had an obligation under the Ewe-ropean Convention on Eweman Rights to hide the poor little lambs' faces.

Image copyright West Midlands Police
Image caption Insp Clive Baynton holds one of the lambs found in the vehicle

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