I am pleased that the Government is introducing new legislation to crack down on illegal hare coursing.
Hare coursing is an illegal activity – where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares – and is a serious problem in some rural areas. Not only does hare coursing involve cruelty to wild animals, but it is also associated with a range of other criminal activities, including theft, criminal damage, violence, and intimidation.
In amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Government has set out measures to strengthen law enforcement for hare coursing. This is part of Government’s wider commitment both to improving animal welfare and to supporting the work of the police in protecting our rural communities.
These proposals are:
• Increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine and introducing – for the first time – the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
• Two new criminal offences: firstly, trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and secondly, being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare both punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
• New powers for the courts to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence.
• New powers for the courts to make an order, on conviction, disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.
In response to these proposals, National Farmers Union Deputy President, Stuart Roberts said: “The NFU welcomes government plans to table amendments which would strengthen the law and finally give rural police forces and the courts the necessary powers to tackle hare coursing and the wider problem of organised crime. “Our members have had to deal with the impact of illegal hare coursing for far too long and will be relieved that after much campaigning by the NFU and others over many years there is now light at the end of the tunnel”.
“I hope this will signal the start of a real crackdown on these organised gangs of criminals who break into fields to let dogs loose to chase hares, causing huge damage to crops and farm property and intimidating people living in rural communities.”