Illegal hare coursing is a blight on rural communities, as local farmers know only too well.
The sight of tyre tracks through fields, broken gates, and damaged crops has sadly become all too common in the countryside.
I’ve called on Ministers to introduce tougher laws to tackle the gangs that run these illegal coursing meets, and I’m pleased that new legislation is now being introduced.
The Government has confirmed that it will be amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to strengthen law enforcement for hare coursing. 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.
These changes will give the police the powers they need to tackle illegal coursing more effectively and act as a stronger deterrent.
I’ll continue to stand up for our farmers and make sure rural crime is taken seriously.