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Cross border prosecution deals with hare coursing issue

A seven-force collaboration has dealt a massive blow against hare coursing gangs.

The ground-breaking cross border prosecution plan targeting the gangs killing wildlife illegally has resulted in offending being cut by a third in the Eastern region.

The first official update from the forces and the Crown Prosecution Service revealed incidents across the area fell from 2044 in 2020-2021 to 1415 in 2021-2022, a drop of 31%.

Borders between the forces - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent – were removed as prosecution evidence was shared across a joint IT system.

The result was that offenders living in one for area but committing crimes in another could be prosecuted.  

They were served with Community Protection Warnings (CPWs), Community Protection Notices (CPNs) and Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs).

This, together with shared automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) intelligence, the seizure of dogs and the sharing of all interactions of people suspected to be involved as part of Operation Galileo has limited their activities.

Hare coursing traditionally begins in September when the fields have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground for the illegal blood sport which is now big business due to online betting syndicates.

It’s not a victimless crime as it causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens the rural community with victims facing intimidation and even violence.

And the gangs involved are usually linked to other illegal activity.

For years, forces have found cross-jurisdiction work challenging which added to the low penalties for offences made the crime easy for the gangs.

But that was until a proposal by Cambridgeshire officers was put to the CPS who then decided to work together to make the idea a reality.

Sally Robinson, a District Crown Prosecutor for the CPS, said: “Those who commit hare coursing have historically exploited the borders of neighbouring forces to continue their illegal activities, causing the extreme suffering and unlawful killing of hares, whilst also having a harmful effect on our rural communities.

“We have collectively built stronger cases for prosecution and made it harder for the perpetrators to offend in the future. The CPS takes wildlife crime seriously and we will continue to work closely with the police and other partners to bring offenders to justice whenever our legal test is met.”

The CPS is now encouraging other forces to look at how they can adapt the principles to deal with prolific offenders from outside their area.

And there’s another win as offenders targeting rural communities are now discovering they aren’t an easy target.

Sergeant Brian Calver from Suffolk Rural and Wildlife Team said: “This is a great achievement by all seven forces and the CPS. Our collaboration shows how determined we are to tackle the barbaric actions of a few that cause significant physical and mental harm to those in our rural communities.

“We will continue with the collaboration and continue to work together to further reduce illegal coursing, lamping and poaching.”

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