Hare coursers are being targeted in a campaign launched by Suffolk Constabulary, in conjunction with other partners, with a warning that vehicles could be seized and crushed.
The force is warning that strong action against those involved in this illegal activity will be taken including the crushing of vehicles.
Anyone convicted of the offence can receive a fine of up to £5,000 by a magistrates’ court.
Hare coursing is a blood-sport where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares. It is illegal in the UK under the Hunting Act 2004, which makes it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs. Legislation also gives police the powers to seize and detain vehicles until the court hearing. Powers to seize vehicles may also be granted under section 30 of the Game Act 1831.
Hare coursers typically become active as large tracts of land are left without standing crops. During this period, offenders are known to travel to Suffolk from around the country to hunt hares with dogs.
Reports of hare coursing have been increasing in recent years, although in Suffolk during the period September 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, there were 139 incidents reported, while so far this year since the start of September last year there have been 80.
Under the banner of Operation Galileo forces from across the country work together sharing information and intelligence on hare coursers planning to trespass on farmland.
Sgt Brian Calver from the Suffolk Rural Crime and Wildlife Team, said: “Hare coursing is a huge issue for farmers and landowners with many people living in fear of these criminals. This illegal activity damages property, threatens people’s incomes and subjects people to fear and intimidation.
“Many of those are very unpleasant with violent and unscrupulous backgrounds, many of whom have links to organised criminality. Significant sums of money can change hands in the form of illegal betting and gambling on the outcome.
“The crushed car in the photo, whilst not used in a hare coursing incident, does aim to demonstrate the consequences if you are caught and convicted of hare-coursing, so let this be a warning to those who commit this crime.”
Members of the public who witness hare coursing taking place are advised not to approach the participants but to phone police immediately on 999.
Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “Suffolk is particularly vulnerable to hare-coursers due to our wonderful open spaces and population of brown hares so it is very important to make it clear that this despicable behaviour will not be tolerated in our beautiful county.”
Pictured top is Tim Woodward, regional surveyor from the Country Land and Business Association (CLA); PCC Tim Passmore; Sgt Brian Calver, from Suffolk Constabulary’s Rural and Wildlife Crime Team and Charles Hesketh, Suffolk Country adviser from the National Farmers Union.