The dangerous and criminal behaviour of hare coursers has been brought to national attention after a blatant mass coursing event in Bedfordshire.

Footage posted online shows multiple vehicles and several dozen individuals openly coursing hares in broad daylight. The vehicles are shown being driven across recently drilled crops with individuals hanging out of windows and standing in open sunroofs to view the action. Meanwhile, lurcher-type dogs pursued hares across the flat ground, while bystanders shouted encouragement. While precise numbers of participants are hard to determine, at least a dozen vehicles and around 50 people were shown in the field itself with a larger number apparently parked on nearby track or road.

The video also appears to show police officers standing beside the open doors of a police car, but not doing anything to intervene. With what appears to be another police vehicle stationary nearby. The event is understood to have been part of the funeral of a member of the travelling community who was a prolific hare courser.

Bedfordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable, Sharn Basra, said: “We were made aware in advance of plans for a funeral that was due to take place in Bedford and worked with the local authority, the cemetery and the family to ensure that mourners could attend safely to pay their respects.

“The event was resourced by police based on the intelligence and information we had received, including the deployment of officers to key locations.

“While the service at the crematorium passed without issue, the events that preceded it differed significantly to the information we had initially received, and clearly the behaviour during the cortege was completely unacceptable and we are taking this very seriously.”

Disorder

The service itself was followed by disorder in Bedford Town Centre where a convoy of vehicles, some with their number plates removed, was filmed with passengers sitting on the roofs of vehicles, sounding horns and openly brandishing dead hares. Most licensed premises in the town centre closed in response to the event and police routed traffic away from what they described as “ongoing traffic disruption.”