A legal change lobbied for by Shooting Times contributor Ed Coles has passed its final hurdle and only now needs a minister’s decision to bring it into force

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill received Royal Assent on the 28th of April and now is law. The Act amends some existing legislation by increasing the maximum penalty for the historic crime of ‘trespassing in pursuit of game’ under the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828 to an unlimited fine and up to six months’ imprisonment.

The Act also creates two new criminal offences: ‘trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare’; and ‘being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare’ – both punishable by an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison. Crucially, courts will also have the power to order those convicted of poaching to pay back costs incurred by the police in kennelling a dog and to disqualify an offender from owning or keeping a dog.

Ed launched his campaign to have the law changed after experiencing years of threats and criminal damage from illegal coursing gangs on his Cambridgeshire shoot. The campaign culminated in a hugely successful petition which was signed more than 13,000 times.

Commenting on the changes, Ed said: “It is great to see this finally become law, but as the police themselves have said, now the hard work begins. The police and courts now have what they need to deal with this issue. Myself and many other rural workers up and down the country will be expecting them to use these powers to their fullest extent.”

The legal changes were also welcomed by farmers and politicians. NFU Vice President David Exwood said: “It is fantastic news that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act now gives the police more powers to protect rural communities from destructive and intimidating criminal activity” with Home Secretary, Priti Patel, commenting: “Illegal hare coursing has blighted rural communities for too long, resulting in criminal damage, threatening violence and intimidation against farmers and landowners.

“Those responsible are often involved in other criminal activities – including drugs and firearms offences. I have been a longstanding supporter for essential reforms to our laws to stop hare coursing which is why we will act to prevent more people from suffering as a result of the actions of a law-breaking minority.”

You can read Ed Coles’s articles for Shooting Times here.