Suffolk Police is warning of the potential consequences for anyone caught hare coursing in the county.
Officers say they will take strong action against those involved in crime, including the possibility that any vehicles used could be seized and crushed. Anyone convicted of the offence can also receive a fine of up to £5,000 by a magistrates’ court.
Reports of hare coursing have been increasing in recent years, although in Suffolk during the period 1 September 2019 to 31 March 2020 there were 139 incidents reported, while between 1 September 2020 and 9 March 2021 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.
Country Land and Business Association Regional Surveyor Tim Woodward said:
Those involved in this crime are hardened criminals who will not think twice about threatening and intimidating anyone who attempts to stop them from pursuing this illegal activity. Our members regularly tell us how they have had crops damaged and fences, gates and hedges vandalised as hare coursers gain access to fields. The animal welfare concerns of this activity are also extremely worrying.“Strengthened legislation that would allow for tougher punishments for those caught hare coursing would help ensure there is a more effective deterrent to stop this criminal activity from taking place, which is currently widespread across the East of England.