The government has this week announced plans to to tackle the cruel and barbaric practice of hare coursing in amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. These amendments include measures to strengthen law enforcement for hare coursing by increasing penalties, introducing new criminal offences and creating new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs. This includes an order to reimburse the costs incurred when dogs are seized in kennels.
Richard Fuller, MP for North East Bedfordshire, introduced a Private Members' Bill on Hare Coursing last year to tackle this crime.
Speaking after the announcement this week, Richard said:
I warmly welcome the government's amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to introduce new legislation to combat the barbaric rural crime of hare coursing.
The measures laid out today are very similar to the clauses of the Private Members' Bill that I introduced last year and will provide more powers to the police when prosecuting hare coursing, as well as introducing far greater penalties for the perpetrators.
I'm sure this news will be welcomed by our entire rural community as well as the many individuals and groups who have fought for so long to see such measures introduced.
The proposals include:
- Increasing 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.
Brown hares are widespread across the UK but numbers are declining. Their population is estimated at less than half a million in England and they are listed as a priority in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan. The brown hare is known for its long, black-tipped ears and fast running - it can reach speeds of 45mph – and is most commonly found on arable land and open grassland. They face a range of threats, including poaching and habitat loss.
Hare coursing is an illegal activity - where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares - and is a serious problem in some rural areas, including North East Bedfordshire. Not only does hare coursing involve cruelty to wild animals, it is also associated with a range of other criminal activities, including theft, criminal damage, violence and intimidation.