Claire Wright, CLA East Rural Surveyor, talks about recent work to combat hare coursing and other poaching offences.
When you talk about poachers the general public tend to think about the loveable rogue taking one animal for the pot as portrayed by characters such as Claude Greengrass. The reality as many CLA members will testify is vastly different. A story of damaged crops, smashed gates, rammed vehicles and violence meted out to those who get in the way. One of those left battered and bleeding was 29 year old CLA member, who had his nose broken with an iron bar after shutting a field gate to prevent poachers from gaining access to the field.
Police are getting increasingly creative in tackling the poachers whether that is employing specialist vehicles, drone technology or intelligence to apprehend offenders. However research by CLA staff shows that fines and costs imposed by magistrates’ courts are mostly under £500. No deterrent at all when the money gambled on the outcome of events can run into thousands of pounds.
The CLA organised a drop in session at Portcullis House for MPs to meet landowners and gamekeepers affected by the actions of poaching and the police officers who are tasked with tackling rural crime. This was attended by the Justice Minister. As a follow-up to this event a meeting was scheduled between the CLA, NFU, Justice Minister and the Home Office Minister to discuss the possibility of creating sentencing guidelines for poaching offences. Unfortunately the date of the meeting clashed with a tumultuous week in parliament and was subsequently cancelled. We await a new date, but with the parliamentary timetable paralysed by Brexit it is unlikely to be in the near future.
The brown hare has come under increasing pressure in recent months following an outbreak of rabbit haemorrhagic disease 2 which has seen catastrophic population crashes. However if you think that spells an end to the hare coursers then think again. We know that poachers will stop at nothing to get their ‘sport’ and have anecdotal evidence of bull lurchers being used against other quarry including wild deer.
The CLA will continue to lobby government and police forces to ensure that cracking down on poaching offences remains a priority.
You can read the CLA's Hare Coursing Action Plan here.