Action plan created to stamp out hare coursing

Farmers often face threatening behaviour, violence and intimidation when people use their land to practice hare coursing
Farmers often face threatening behaviour, violence and intimidation when people use their land to practice hare coursing

A new action plan has been produced to tackle the growing problem of hare poaching often taking place on farmland.

Illegal hare coursing, more correctly called poaching, is seen as a huge problem in some parts of the countryside.

Illegal coursers can damage land and property and often intimidate those on whose land they operate on.

The problem is widely recognised by government and the police, with the National Rural Crime Survey earlier this year highlighting it as one of the top concerns for farmers and land managers.

A Countryside Alliance survey showed that the highest rates of dissatisfaction with how the police dealt with their case were for violent crime (58%), Wildlife crime/hare coursing (52%), theft of agricultural machinery (48%) and Harassment (48%).

Almost half of all victims participating in the survey were dissatisfied with how the police dealt with their case.

Five points of action

The Countryside Alliance is proposing five points of action to try and combat the problem:

• Amend the law to give the police and courts full seizure and forfeiture powers in all cases of poaching under the game laws, in relation to dogs and vehicles.

• Amend the law to enable the police to recover kennelling costs from convicted persons.

• Extend criminal behaviour orders to enable courts to impose these over wider geographical areas, across police force areas.

• Revise sentencing guidelines and ensure magistrates understand the full gravity of the offence.

• Ensure that in recording crime statistics hare poaching prosecutions and convictions are identifiable, enabling a proper understanding of the scale of the problem and where resources need to be focussed.

Countryside Alliance Head of Political, James Legge commented: “There are a number things which the Government can do to assist the police and courts in tackling the scourge of hare poaching in rural areas.

“No one should underestimate the terrible impact this criminality has on individuals and communities. There is a growing consensus as to what needs to be done and it is time the Government stopped paying lip service to the problem and actually take action.

Mr Legge added: “Our document sets out five clear actions the Government can take and we are calling for all other rural organisations, as well as the police, to come together with us to deliver the changes needed. The time for talking is over.”