Calls for 'tough action' to deter hare coursing and guard rural communities
Countryside campaigners have lobbied for tougher action on illegal blood sport as gamekeepers fight a ‘frontline’ battle against hare coursing.
Members of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) met MPs to discuss tackling the black market pursuit – banned under the Hunting Act 2004.
A recently reported overall fall in rural crime across Suffolk over the last two years was offset by an increase in hare coursing from 141 to more than 400 calls to police.
The CLA met MPs from Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire to call for specific sentencing guidelines for using dogs to chase, catch and kill hares, with large amounts of cash changing hands on the outcome.
CLA members own or manage more than 10 million rural acres across England and Wales, where the use of violence by hare towards landowners and police officers has also increased.
Earlier this year, the CLA called for tailored sentencing to include vehicle seizure and compensation for damage by hare coursers.
Suffolk’s police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore supported calls for consistency and clearer guidelines in the courts, saying the county was particularly vulnerable due to its large open spaces and population of brown hares.
CLA president Tim Breitmeyer said: “Hare coursing is illegal and an abhorrent crime that causes damage to land and property, and those who seek to intervene are often threatened, intimidated or attacked.
“Hare coursers are hardened criminals who make large sums of money as a result of black market gambling, and tough action is needed to stop them.
“Introducing specific sentences for hare coursing, and helping police reclaim kennelling costs for dogs seized from offenders, would help to deter the crime and make rural communities feel safer.”
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin and South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge were among those to attend the event, where Nottinghamshire gamekeeper Jonathan Davis said he and colleagues were “very much on the frontline” against organised criminals using high-powered four-wheel-drive vehicles, and dogs bred to kill.
In September, a seasonal police operation was launched to tackle hare coursing in the region.
Operation Galileo action days target locations known for hare coursing, which is linked to illegal gambling and criminal damage.