Following a rise in reports of hare coursing, which typically spikes after harvest, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is stepping up its campaign to tackle hare coursing.
Hare coursing was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act but continues to attract illegal betting and causes thousands of pounds worth of damage to land and crops. The CLA has published an updated action plan calling for a range of measures to combat the crime.
A CLA member commented: “The moment the combine finishes harvesting the first field in mid-July we are under siege. Despite erecting barriers, digging miles of trenches and locking countless gates, still the illegal hare coursers come, often several times a week.
“The police do what their best but the coursers have no respect for officers or anyone else who gets in their way. Until the law changes, they will continue to cause extensive damage on farms, persecute the brown hare at will and intimidate the farming community without fear of a meaningful legal deterrent.”
The CLA is urging the government to introduce specific sentencing guidelines for hare coursing, to ensure maximum impact on the perpetrators – for example vehicle seizures and compensation payments to the farmer.
It is also asking for resources to treat the crime as a priority, stronger legislation to increase fines, additional training for 101 call handlers and registering convicted hare coursers and dogs on the Police National Computer.
CLA president Mark Bridgeman said: “Following harvest we always see a spike in hare coursing and sadly the problem is once again prevalent in the countryside.
“Those involved in this crime are hardened criminals who will not think twice about threatening and intimidating anyone who attempts to stop them from pursuing this illegal activity.”
“We hope, through our updated action plan, that our advice to farmers and landowners will be crucial in helping to prevent this type of crime taking place in the future.”
Landowners and the public need to be able to recognise when they are witnessing a hare coursing incident and report it to the police either by 101 or 999 (if it is a crime in progress).