Improved police powers, tougher sentencing and new criminal offences have been put forward by the Government to crack down on illegal hare coursing.
Following years of CLA work and lobbying, the Government has announced plans to help tackle the crime that blights rural communities. In amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the Government has set out measures to strengthen law enforcement by introducing two new criminal offences, new powers for courts and increasing the maximum penalty under the Game Acts. These will be debated at the Lords report stage later this month.
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.
CLA President Mark Tufnell says:
“Hare coursing is a despicable crime that so often blights rural communities. We have long argued for tougher sentences and more police powers to tackle these criminal gangs and are pleased that Government has listened.
“Hare coursing is a global industry, with these criminal gangs often live streaming their cruelty for the purposes of illegal betting. Their crimes go hand in hand with other acts of wanton violence and vandalism and many of our members, who so often live in isolated communities, live in fear of being targeted. This clampdown is long overdue – and we need to hold Government’s feet to the fire to ensure these reforms are implemented urgently.”
Environment Secretary George Eustice says:
“We are acting swiftly to tackle the scourge of hare coursing, which blights rural communities up and down the country and support the excellent work which the police are doing to combat it.
“The amendments announced today will fulfil our commitment in the Action Plan for Animal Welfare, protect these beautiful animals and build on the UK’s status as a world leader on animal welfare.”
In the CLA’s five-point action plan to combat hare coursing, published in 2020, we called for amendments to legislation to strengthen the powers of the police and courts to tackle the crime.