‘Inadequate’ hare coursing laws need urgent reform, say campaigners
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Countryside groups have united to demand the government updates 'inadequate' legislation which they claim is hindering attempts to tackle the devastating impact of illegal hare coursing.
A coalition of leading farming, animal welfare and countryside organisations - alongside rural police and crime commissioners - has written to Defra and Home Office ministers 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 £1,000 fine.
- Enabling police to recover kennelling costs from offenders.
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- It is also asking for better information and guidance for magistrates and prosecutors and support for a more effective approach from the police, building on the success of initiatives such as Operation Galileo.
In a joint statement, the coalition said: "There is no doubt that hare coursing is as prevalent as ever and having huge impacts on rural communities. Whether it is farmers being intimidated and threatened by coursers, the damage their vehicles cause to our iconic landscape or the cruelty this inflicts on our native wildlife, the impacts on the British countryside from illegal hare coursing are huge.
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"Despite success in some parts of the country, we are still seeing increased incidents of hare coursing overall.
"It is clear to us, our members and the police that relying on legislation that is nearly 200 years old is simply inadequate and in need of urgent reform. That's why we are asking the government to support simple changes to the Game Act that would give police the powers they need to properly tackle this crime and deter criminals with a sentence that fits the crime.
"As a coalition, we will continue to raise this issue with government at the highest level and ensure they recognise the importance of tackling rural crimes to rural communities up and down the country."
The coalition includes the British Association for Shooting and Conservation (BASC), Countryside Alliance, Country Land and Business Association (CLA), Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), The Kennel Club, National Farmers' Union (NFU), National Rural Crime Network, RSPCA, and Tenant Farmers Association (TFA).
- Anybody witnessing hare coursing in progress should call 999 immediately. Otherwise, rural crimes can be reported anonymously to the dedicated Rural Crime Hotline - run by Crimestoppers in partnership with the NFU - by calling 0800 783 0137 or visiting the Rural Crime Hotline website.