Men plead guilty to hare coursing at Flixton

A group of illegal hare coursers who drove 150 miles to let their dogs chase hares in north Suffolk were fined and banned from driving yesterday.

Eddie Cole, Matthew Giles, Tony Giles, Nelson Hedges and Matthew Wenman were each fined �1,000 and banned from driving for 56 days after they pleaded guilty to hunting a wild mammal with a dog.

Magistrates heard the five defendants had driven up from Surrey and Sussex with five dogs on December 12 and allowed their dogs to chase hares in a field in Flixton, near Bungay. At least one hare was killed by the packs of dog, which included a spring spaniel, a terrier and a seven-month-old puppy.

Colette Griffiths, prosecuting said the five men were found by police stretched out in a line as the dogs chased a hare which was killed.

Police had arrived at the field after a farmer in another field had noticed the men acting suspiciously and alerted officers.

The court heard the men had come to the area after they arranged with a farmer to chase animals on his land, a practice that is legal under the Hunting Act 2004 if given permission by a land owner. However once in the area the men could not get in touch with the farmer and decided to release their pets in other fields.

Martin Crawford-Brown, mitigating for all five defendants, said it was never the men's original intention as they travelled up to illegally hare course on other land.

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Mr Crawford-Brown said: 'At this stage the boundary of illegality and legality became blurred.'

Cole, 28 from Rudwick, Sussex, Matthew Giles, 31 and his cousin Tony Giles, 25, both from Cranleigh , Surrey, Hedges, 23, from Normandy, Surrey and Wenman, 26, from Rudwick, Sussex, were banned from driving for 56 days as a vehicle had been used in the commission of an offence.

Mr Crawford-Brown said a driving ban would affect each defendant as they needed to drive for their jobs.

He added: 'They are all extremely remorseful. They recognise the consequences of their actions.'

As well as the �1,000 fine each defendant must pay �100 in costs and surcharges.

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