Rural campaign group call for action on hare coursers by making changes to the law

PUBLISHED: 11:32 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 11:45 08 January 2020

Two suspected hare coursers in Wicken were stopped by police after a vehicle in a nearby ditch was seized last month. Picture: CAMBS POLICE

Two suspected hare coursers in Wicken were stopped by police after a vehicle in a nearby ditch was seized last month. Picture: CAMBS POLICE

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A rural campaign group is calling for action on tackling illegal hare coursing across Cambridgeshire by making changes to the law.

Hare coursers left one of their vehicles after it caught fire when leaving Ely last year. Picture: East Cambs CopsHare coursers left one of their vehicles after it caught fire when leaving Ely last year. Picture: East Cambs Cops

The Countryside Alliance (CA) wants the police and courts to have full seizure and forfeiture powers in all cases of poaching under the game laws, in relation to dogs and vehicles.

The national organisation would also like to see the law amended to enable the police to recover kennelling costs from convicted persons.

By extending criminal behaviour orders, the CA believe it will enable courts to impose these over wider geographical areas, as well as revising sentencing guidelines and ensuring magistrates understand the full gravity of the offence.

Campaigners say that the crime is "closely connected to the criminal underworld and involves enormous sums of money".

Hare coursers prosecuted and vehicles seized in East Cambridgeshire. Picture: EAST CAMBS POLICE/ RCATHare coursers prosecuted and vehicles seized in East Cambridgeshire. Picture: EAST CAMBS POLICE/ RCAT

Most illegal hare coursing is prosecuted as a poaching offence under the game laws and sometimes as a hunting offence under section 1 of the Hunting Act. Sarah Lee of the Countryside Alliance said: "We are very disturbed to read of the recent spate of hare coursing incidents, particularly the incident involving burning cars in the Bottisham area.

"We urge the public to report suspicious activity to the police. The damage illegal coursers cause to land and property and the intimidation and violence faced by those on whose land they operate should not be underestimated."

The problem is widely recognised by government and the police, with the new National Rural Crime Strategy identifying hare poaching as a priority.

A recent rural crime survey highlighted it as one of the top concerns of farmers and land managers.

The Countryside Alliance have asked people living in Cambridgeshire to report any suspicious activity, particularly if multiple vehicles are spotted in rural or isolated fields, grass verges or farm tracks, to the police on 999 (if a crime is taking place) or 101 to report a crime.

The group strongly warn people not to approach the hare coursers.

If you want to report a crime, but you do not want to be identified to the police, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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