New hare coursing laws welcomed by Melton MP

Campaigners are celebrating today (Tuesday) after a new criminal offence was established to crack down on people involved in hare coursing.

New legislation will help police officers deal with hare coursing gangs EMN-220401-161900001
New legislation will help police officers deal with hare coursing gangs EMN-220401-161900001

The illegal activity, where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares, is a serious problem in some rural areas, including the Melton borough and Rutland.

Along with animals cruelty, it is also associated with a range of other criminal activities, including theft, criminal damage, violence and intimidation. 

Pressure has been put on the government to introduce new powers to help police deal with offenders and legislation will now prevent them from owning dogs and hand them tougher financial penalties.

Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton EMN-210612-151522001

The move was welcomed by Melton MP, Alicia Kearns, who has campaigned for nearly a year with a small group of fellow MPs for the law changes.

She said: “Hare coursing is a scourge on our rural communities, and many farmers identified it as a major concern in my farmers’ survey earlier this year.

“I’ve been lobbying the government to introduce new measures to tackle illegal hare coursing since last spring, and I’m delighted that it will be included in the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill.

“I’ve long argued that rural crime must be recognised as serious, organised crime – and it’s right that these new proposals will tackle the intimidation, threats, assaults and damage farmers too often face from hare coursing gangs.”

The new legislation is good news for farmers, who have had to deal with the issue on their own land.

Nattional Farmers’ Union deputy president, Stuart Roberts, said: “The NFU welcomes government plans to table amendments which would strengthen the law and finally give rural police forces and the courts the necessary powers to tackle hare coursing and the wider problem of organised crime.  

“I hope this will signal the start of a real crackdown on these organised gangs of criminals who break into fields to let dogs loose to chase hares, causing huge damage to crops and farm property and intimidating people living in rural communities.”

The legislation bring in the following law changes:

****ncreasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine and introducing – for the first time – the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.  

***Two new criminal offences: firstly, trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and secondly, being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare both punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment. 

***New powers for the courts to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence. 

***New powers for the courts to make an order, on conviction, disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.