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Illegal hare coursing to attract strict new punishments, promise DEFRA

Farmers, police and landowners welcome the new powers

Illegal hare coursing will soon be hit with a range of new powers and penalties after DEFRA announced a crackdown. The move follows a successful campaign by gamekeeper and Shooting Times contributor Ed Coles. (Read this piece on illegal hare coursing here.)

Illegal hare coursing gangs

Ed, whose shoot is frequently hit by illegal hare coursing gangs, has been campaigning for tougher penalties and more police powers to crack down on the organised crime gangs. Now DEFRA has announced that they will bring forward a suite of legal changes to strengthen the provisions of anti-poaching legislation and that prison sentences will be available for the worst offenders.

Under the proposals, the two key pieces of 19th century legislation used to tackle poachers, the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828, will be updated by creating two new criminal offences which will make it easier for police and courts to act. It will become a crime to ‘trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare’ and there will also be a new offence of ‘being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare’.

Punishments will also be significantly stiffer with courts having the option of an unlimited fine and up to six months in prison. Police have also welcomed new powers for courts to order the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling seized coursing dogs. Courts will also be able to ban an offender from owning or keeping a dog.

Ed told Shooting Times that he welcomed the changes and wanted to see them brought in soon. Ed said: “Imprisonment, unlimited fines and new powers for the police are all things which we have been campaigning for, however it is vital that these are now introduced promptly. We have already waited a long time to see these proposals brought forward and as the government has missed opportunities to tackle this problem, crops have been destroyed, people threatened and hares have been illegally killed. There must be no more delay.”