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Rural taskforces deploy after rise in hare coursing

Forces across the country are deploying specialist teams against hare coursing gangs.

Rural taskforces have gone into action against the organised gangs involved in gambling and animal cruelty.

Humberside Police, Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Kent Police have been among those taking on offenders who are organising illegal hare coursing and lamping despite the country being in lockdown.

Humberside deployed a fixed winged aircraft and a helicopter this week in response to an incident in East Yorkshire.

Three arrests were made and a van and dogs were seized under the Hunting Act.

"The regional Air Support NPAS21 helicopter came to assist with the search for the offenders and assisted in detaining two suspects and the NPAS84 fixed wing plane also assisted to detain the final, third, suspect,” said a Humberside spokesperson.

The force has seen a rise in reports of incidents due to people travelling from outside the area for organised meets.

Hare coursing, where dogs are used to hunt hares, is illegal as is lamping which takes place late at night and involves an animal being hunted into a lit area where it is then shot.

People involved gamble on the result and use 4x4 vehicles to access agricultural land without the owner’s permission.

"Hare coursing is barbaric and illegal and as a sport is banned," said the spokesperson.

"With no regard for the law, criminal gangs are still travelling to our area, despite the national lockdown, and trespassing on private farmland to hunt.”

Kent’s rural crime team has been out tackling reports of lamping after reports from residents.

A crucial tool has also been the rural community Farmwatch groups that have been set up by forces so that people living in farming areas can report suspicious activity or vehicles such as 4x4s that are on private land.

Cambridgeshire officers have been out in force just days after securing the convictions of three men who were caught hare coursing twice in a month.

The three, who had travelled across three counties, were handed three-year orders banning them from any similar activity.

Levi Lee, 31, Edward Lee, 37 and John Lee, 64, all from Coventry, were first spotted on farm land on 29 November, 2019.

Officers noticed the rear windows of their vehicle were deliberately obscured to hide two lurcher dogs. The three men claimed to be on the farm to look for a ‘missing’ cocker spaniel dog and said they believed they were on a public bridleway.

All three men were dispersed from the county and their vehicle was seized. However, a month later, on 29 December, the three men were caught on farmland after an officer deployed a stinger to disable a 4x4.

The driver of the car on this occasion, Willia­m Anderson, 45, from Maidstone, Kent.

After trial at Peterborough Magistrates’ Court this week, Anderson was found guilty of criminal damage, driving a vehicle on land not part of a road and poaching and ordered to pay £500 in compensation to the farmer for his damaged crops. He was also fined £350.

Levi Lee, Edward Lee and John Lee were all handed three-year Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) designed to prevent them from hare coursing, lamping and poaching in Cambridgeshire.

Sergeant Tom Nuttall, from the force’s RCAT team, said: “John, Edward and Levi Lee had no issue with coming into Cambridgeshire for a second time within a month of being caught by us.

“The effectiveness of the CBOs will be put to the test, because if they breach them they will be arrested and put before the courts again with a maximum sentence of five years in prison.”

He added: “Cambridgeshire’s flat and rural landscape make it a popular area for hare coursing and other rural crime, but our dedicated team works hard to bring offenders to justice. This sentencing is a great example of that.”

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