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Calls for hare coursing crackdown after 'truly terrifying' intimidation

PUBLISHED: 06:44 09 March 2018 | UPDATED: 06:44 09 March 2018

CLA East regional director Ben Underwood with an anti-hare coursing sign

CLA East regional director Ben Underwood with an anti-hare coursing sign

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Countryside leaders called for tougher action against hare coursers after a dramatic rise in criminal incidents across East Anglia - including threats against landowners and the ramming of their vehicles.

Hare coursing near Newmarket. Picture: Michael Hall.Hare coursing near Newmarket. Picture: Michael Hall.

Reports of hare coursing – the illegal pursuit of hares with sight hounds – have risen by more than 500pc in Norfolk and Suffolk in the last five years with police receiving more than 550 reports in Norfolk alone last year.

The activity was outlawed under 2004 Hunting Act, but the region still attracts illegal hare coursers due to its large population of brown hares and wide open spaces.

Trespassing on private land, coursers can cause thousands of pounds of damage to property and, if confronted, will often threaten landowners with violence.

The CLA (Country, Land and Business Association) has launched an action plan for farmers, landowners, the police and government to work together to combat the problem.

Norfolk Police are cracking down on hare coursing. Picture: Ian BurtNorfolk Police are cracking down on hare coursing. Picture: Ian Burt

The organisation is calling for specific sentencing guidelines to be introduced, those convicted of the crime to be registered on the Police National Computer and greater resources and training to police 101 call handlers and officers.

CLA East regional director Ben Underwood said: “Some of the reports of hare coursing I have heard about in our region across the autumn and winter have been truly terrifying. Those that take part in hare coursing have little respect for the law or the communities they impact.

“Hare coursing raises concerns about animal cruelty, damages crops and private property, and has a detrimental impact on those who live and work in rural areas.

“Fines for those caught can be incredibly low while the gambling side of the crime can generate thousands of pounds so there is no deterrent.

“By releasing our action plan now we hope that steps can be taken that will reduce the impact of this crime in future hare coursing seasons.”

One CLA member from the eastern region, who did not wish to be named, said he and his neighbours had been subjected to hare coursing on their fields on a “near daily basis” for the last three or four months.

“We have had face-to-face conflicts with the coursers, been threatened, had property damaged and seen cars rammed,” he said. “We have got to take a stand and find a way to combat this crime as it can have a devastating impact on those who live and work in rural communities.”

Police advise anyone who sees coursing taking place not to approach the participants and to call 999 immediately. Any suspicious activity should be reported by dialing 101.

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