NFU calls for 'archaic' 1931 Game Act to modernise

Rural groups are seeking to amend the 1831 Game Act to give enhanced powers to the police and criminal justice system
Rural groups are seeking to amend the 1831 Game Act to give enhanced powers to the police and criminal justice system

The NFU has called for changes to the 'archaic' 1831 Game Act to increase the effectiveness of stamping out the growing issue of rural crime.

At a roundtable meeting between farming groups and the government, the NFU pressed for legislative change that would make it easier for police to catch and prosecute criminals.

It comes as the cost of countryside crime continues to rise, reaching an eight-year-high in 2019.

But the 1831 Game Act, one of the most significant and crucial laws intended to combat such crime, is nearly 200 years old.



Currently, legislation relating to hare coursing does not consistently give police and courts full seizure and forfeiture powers for dogs and vehicles, which are crucial elements of this illegal activity.

They also cannot recover kenneling costs when dogs have been seized, and fines are capped at low levels.



Amending the law on hare coursing to give police and courts these powers would be seen as a significant boost to properly enforcing the law and making it more difficult for criminals to reoffend.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said the impacts of rural crime were not just financial for a farmer, but were emotional and can have long-lasting effects on farming families.

“I am consistently hearing from farmers that rural crime is on the rise and getting worse, whether it is mass hare coursing events or industrial scale fly-tipping, it is clear that organised criminals are behind these acts.

“It’s about time the government gave rural crime the attention that it deserves and it is shameful that one of the crucial laws intended to combat rural crime is centuries old.

"Simple changes to legislation could give the police the power they need to properly enforce the law and crack down on rural crime.”

NFU chief land management adviser Sam Durham, who attended the roundtable, said the end of harvest time should be a celebration for arable farmers, but instead it marked the beginning of the hare coursing season.

“We heard from the police at the roundtable that the tools at their disposal are simply unsuitable and that there needs to be a change to the law to make a real difference.



"If there is to be lasting change when it comes to tackling rural crime, it needs to come in the form of legislation that will help the police, not hinder them."

What are rural groups asking for?

The NFU, alongside the CLA and Countryside Alliance, is calling for the 1831 Game Act to be amended to give enhanced powers to the police and criminal justice system, including:

• Giving the police and courts full seizure and forfeiture powers for dogs and vehicles.

• Removing the existing limits on the penalties that can be imposed, which is currently a maximum £2500 fine.

• Enabling police to recover kennelling costs from offenders.