Across the south west, there has been several incidents of hare coursing this autumn, a highly organised criminal activity which continues to blight the lives of farmers and landowners.
Most recently in Wiltshire, a man was arrested and two dogs were seized following suspected hare coursing near Calne. Police were alerted by members of the public to a group of men in fields close to Cherhill. When officers from the Rural Crime Team arrived, they fled the scene in a car at high speed. The driver was stopped by a traffic officer on the A4 with two passengers making off on foot.
Avon & Somerset Police have also reported that poaching and hare coursing on the Mendip Hills has resulted in extensive criminal damage to local farmland. As a result, officers in the area are mounting extra patrols in a bid to catch the culprits and stamp out the crimes.
And October, a man was arrested and had his van seized by Dorset Police after they found a dead hare in the passenger seat footwell.
Hare coursing has been illegal in England since 2004 under the Hunting Act. Last year the government introduced new legislation under the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which included two new criminal offences; making it illegal to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare, and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare. Anyone convicted of these crimes could face an unlimited fine and up to six months' in prison.
Our team of advisors attend regular rural crime meetings with police forces across the region to keep up to date with situation. A key message is that rural crimes must be reported to help build intelligence. Landowners and members of the public should report any incidents to by calling 101 (or 999 if the crime is in progress). If possible and safe to do so give the following information.
- The exact location (a map reference or local landmark can be useful). Use a what3words reference if you have it.
- Who is involved (number of people, clothing worn, tools being carried, or any dogs)
- The make, colour and registration number of any vehicle you suspect is involved.
- If it is safe to do so take photos which may be used as evidence and remember to ask the police for an incident reference number.
The CLA Has an action plan to combat hare coursing and signs to encourage the reporting of hare coursing are available from the CLA South West Office. Please contact us on 01249 700200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CLA’s National Access Advisor Claire Wright wrote how hare coursing is affecting rural communities and asked members to provide examples of how they have suffered If you have any questions on poaching or a case study to share, please e-mail Claire Wright.