RASCS News

RURAL CRIME INCLUDES HARE COURSING

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Hare coursing has been illegal in the UK since 2004 (under the Hunting Act 2004). Despite the fact that the punishment upon conviction includes unlimited fines and imprisonment, hare coursing is still a major concern for Farms and Estates throughout the UK. Hare coursing has a long history in the UK, starting off as a sport of the rich but over time it became a working man’s sport until the introduction of greyhound racing in the 1920s.

Coursing requires large open spaces so agricultural land is an obvious target for the now illegal activity. This will often result in extensive damage to crops and land. Gates and fences are often vandalised to gain access to the farm land.

**Recent Government plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available to tackle the barbaric practice of hare coursing were set out by the Government on 04 January 2022. These include:

  • 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 kenneling 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.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said:

“Illegal hare coursing has blighted rural communities for too long, resulting in criminal damage and threatening violence and intimidation against farmers and landowners.

Those responsible are often involved in other criminal activities – including drugs and firearms offences. I have been a longstanding supporter for essential reforms to our laws to stop hare coursing which is why we will act to prevent more people from suffering as a result of the actions of a law-breaking minority.

We are introducing new measures in the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to empower and equip the police and courts with the powers they need to combat this crime. They will deter those breaking the law, and send a clear message that we will do all we can to keep our rural communities safe.”

RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said:

“We’re pleased to see proposals to crackdown on hare coursing; a barbaric bloodsport that sees hares cruelly chased, caught and killed by dogs. It’s time hare coursing was consigned to the history books, where it belongs.

Hare coursing gangs inflict fear and suffering on their targets – the hare – but our rescue teams have also seen many dogs, used for coursing, coming into our care having been injured during the sport or abandoned when their owners no longer have use for them. This new legislation will give police and the courts more powers to end this cruel practice and the suffering it causes.”

**Source: Gov.uk

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