Rutland MP Alicia Kearns welcomes new powers to tackle hare coursing
New powers and penalties have been introduced to tackle hare coursing.
Police in Lincolnshire and Rutland regularly stage special operations to target people illegally using dogs to chase and kill hares across the two counties.
The government will use the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to introduce new powers, which include increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game to an unlimited fine and the possibility of serving up to six months in prison.
Two new criminal offences will be introduced - trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare, and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare. These will also be punishable by an unlimited fine or six months in prison.
Courts will be able to order the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing. The courts will also be able to disqualify offenders from owning or keeping a dog.
Rutland MP Alicia Kearns welcomed the move.
She said: “Hare coursing is a scourge on our rural communities, and many farmers identified it as a major concern in my farmers’ survey earlier this year.
“I’ve been lobbying the government to introduce new measures to tackle illegal hare coursing since last spring, and I’m delighted that it will be included in the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill.
“I’ve long argued that rural crime must be recognised as serious, organised crime – and it’s right that these new proposals will tackle the intimidation, threats, assaults and damage farmers too often face from hare coursing gangs.”
NFU deputy president, Stuart Roberts, said: “The NFU welcomes government plans to table amendments which would strengthen the law and finally give rural police forces and the courts the necessary powers to tackle hare coursing and the wider problem of organised crime.
“I hope this will signal the start of a real crackdown on these organised gangs of criminals who break into fields to let dogs loose to chase hares, causing huge damage to crops and farm property and intimidating people living in rural communities.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “There are persistent groups who illegally perpetuate hare coursing creating challenges for the police.
“These new measures will give the police the additional powers to bring prosecutions and confiscate dogs from owners involved in hare coursing.”