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PCCs demand tougher laws on hare coursing

Police and Crime Commissioners have demanded sweeping new powers to replace ‘inadequate’ laws to tackle hare coursing in rural areas.

The PCCs have called on Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defra Secretary George Eustace to combat the scourge of illegal hare coursing.

They have joined with the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, the National Farmers’ Union and other countryside groups to campaign for the 1831 Game Act to be toughened.

The PCC for North Yorkshire, Julia Mulligan, as Chair of the Rural Crime Network, warned organised gangs are increasing their activities and the law needed to be toughened to stop them.

It is a particular issue in Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire and has led to the launch of Operation Galileo which now involved 11 forces. Cambridgeshire Police took to social media last week to warn that a possible incident had taken place, leaving behind a burnt out vehicle at the scene.

The alliance warned: “Evidence is increasingly showing that hare coursing is closely connected to organised criminals and involves enormous sums of money changing hands through high-stakes illegal betting. The damage illegal coursers cause to land and property, and the verbal abuse, threats, intimidation and violence faced by those on whose land they operate, should not be underestimated.”

The National Farmers Union said: “Many of our organisations work closely with the police forces that are dealing with hare coursing offences. These forces have found that dogs are the courser’s key asset and that the ability to seize dogs is proving an important deterrent. Unfortunately, this means that police forces must fund
kennelling costs and cannot reclaim costs from offenders via the courts.”

They want police to be given full seizure and forfeiture powers for dogs and vehicles, the removal of current £1,000 limit on the penalties that can be imposed and for police to be able to recover kennelling costs from offenders.

Chief Inspector Phil Vickers, the lead for Operation Galileo with Lincolnshire Police is giving his backing to the proposed legislation change and believes it will have a significant impact on action to prevent offending. There were 686 recorded offences in the county last year.

In a joint statement, the coalition said: “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.”

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