Two men have been ordered to pay out more than £12,000 after being charged with hare coursing offences under new laws designed to curb the devastating crime.
Darren Lee, 26, and Ronnie Doherty, 21, were the first people to be convicted in Lincolnshire under new and tougher legislation introduced in August last year.
The men were initially arrested in the Holbeach area after Lincolnshire Police received several reports of hare coursing in Gedney and West Pinchbeck on 25 August 2022.
Hare poaching can lead to criminal damage, theft, vandalism, and violence. The season usually begins after harvest, as poachers take advantage of bare fields.
A single incident can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to land and crops, and see farmers and landowners violently abused.
But the new legislation makes it an offence to go equipped for, search for, or pursue hares with dogs, and an offence to trespass with intent to search for or pursue hares with dogs.
The law, which came into force on 1 August 2022, also allows courts to order a reimbursement of the costs of kennelling which is paid for by the police.
Both men pleaded guilty earlier this week to two charges of trespass with intent to pursue hares with dogs.
Chief Inspector Steve Williamson, the force's lead for rural crime, said the sentence would be "welcomed by all."
"Our Rural Crime Action Team, which is committed to bringing rural crime offenders to justice, will continue to patrol rural areas and our officers will continue to attend reports of hare coursing.
“We hope this sends a strong message that we will take robust action to prevent and disrupt those involved in rural crime, which is often linked to other forms of criminality.”
He added the force would continue to work with partner agencies including the CLA and NFU to disrupt and deter hare coursers.
NFU county adviser for south Lincolnshire, Johanna Musson, said the sentencing was "tremendous news and a landmark conviction".
"On behalf of farmers, some of whom have been terrorised by hare coursing, we offer a huge thank you to Lincolnshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service for their work on this case.
“This has been the culmination of extensive local and national lobbying from the NFU, working with the police and the PCC, for harsher sentences and increased police powers to tackle this barbaric activity that has plagued the Lincolnshire countryside for too long.
“We now have a genuine deterrent to hare coursers – if you come here, you’ll have your dogs, cars and equipment seized and receive a hefty fine.”
The pair were ordered to pay an equal share of £11,144 kennelling and veterinary costs for four sighthounds which officers seized from them on 25 August, when they appeared at Boston Magistrates Court on 7 March.
Lee and Doherty were also both fined £416 for each of two offences and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £166 and prosecution costs of £85.
They were also ordered to permanently forfeit the dogs and disqualified them from owning or keeping dogs for five years, suspended until 31 March to enable them to rehome their pets.