Landowners urge specific sentences for hare coursing

Currently, sentences for hare coursing are issued using guidelines which are not specifically linked to the crime
Currently, sentences for hare coursing are issued using guidelines which are not specifically linked to the crime

Specific sentencing guidelines for hare coursing should be introduced to stomp out the growing crime, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) says.

The rural group has released an updated action plan that outlines how farmers, the police and government can work together to bring those involved to justice.

It comes following increased reports of hare coursing - where dogs compete against each other in pursuit of a hare - which continues to blight the lives of landowners.

This type of rural crime, which attracts illegal betting, was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act and takes place illegally without permission, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to land and crops.



But sentences for hare coursing are currently issued using guidelines which are not specifically linked to the crime.

The CLA, which represents 30,000 rural firms, is calling for tailored sentencing guidelines such as vehicle seizure and compensation paid to the landowner for any damage caused.



It also calls for legislation to be amended to increase the powers of the police and courts, including increasing the fines that can be imposed for poaching offences.

This should include the ability for police forces to reclaim the cost of kennelling confiscated dogs if a conviction is secured, the group says.

President of the CLA Mark Bridgeman said those involved in hare coursing were 'hardened criminals' who 'threatened and intimidated' farmers and landowners.

"Following harvest, we always see a spike in hare coursing and sadly the problem is once again prevalent in the countryside," he said.

“We hope, through our updated action plan, that our advice to farmers will be crucial in helping to prevent this type of crime taking place in the future.”

An anonymous landowner and CLA member said his business was 'under siege' as soon as the first combine harvester rolls out in mid-July.

"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.”

It comes as the NFU urged for legislative changes to the 'archaic' 1831 Game Act to increase the effectiveness of stamping out rural crime.

The cost of countryside crime continues to rise, reaching an eight-year-high in 2019, NFU Mutual figures show.