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Forces welcome new court powers to tackle hare coursers

Rural crime teams have got tough new legislation to tackle hare coursing gangs.

Forces have welcomed new court powers and longer sentences for people found guilty of hare coursing.

New laws that have now come into effect mean that anyone caught hare coursing will have penalties including unlimited fines and up to six months in prison.

Rural crime teams will be able to use two new offences: trespass with intent of using a dog to pursue a hare and going equipped with the intent of hare coursing.

It follows a five year campaign by a coalition of forces, animal welfare groups and farmers.

They had argued that the laws had not been updated since the 1920s and offered little deterrent to offenders who had been able to make money from livestreaming hunts on the web to gambling syndicates.

The changes were made in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The RSPCA said: "This is great for hares and for dogs involved in the 'sport' who end up in rescue centres due to injury or abandonment."

The National Farmers' Union pledged to work with officers to tackle offenders.

It's a significant problem being tackled by the national Op Galileo initiative and a multi-force initiative to target cross-border offending.

It said: “We will continue to work with government and rural police forces to ensure these strengthened laws are utilised to deliver meaningful results."

Ahead of the changes, Leicestershire revealed five new recruits have joined its rural policing team.

And North Yorkshire said the arrest of a group of hare coursers last week was part of work to tackle the gangs: “This sort of behaviour has a terrible effect on the community and will not be tolerated.”

But amid the celebrations, there was a warning that forces would need to follow Leicestershire’s example with more officers – and ensure prosecutions were not delayed.

The Country Land and Business Association Wales said: “We welcome the new laws in Wales, but add that our police forces and judicial system need further resources to tackle the job.”

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