A group of agencies chaired by Natural England has joined forces to tackle the seasonal issue of illegal hare coursing.
With the harvest now complete, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex police forces are working in partnership with the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Natural England and the Country Land and Business Association to tackle this criminal activity which can cause thousands of pounds worth of damage to crop fields, irrigation systems, fences and gates.
Hare coursing has been illegal for more than a decade, since the implementation of the Hunting Act 2004. This banned activity sees greyhounds and other ‘sight’ hounds, such as lurchers, chasing a hare by sight, not scent.
Usually, but not always, it’s carried out in groups. The dogs flush out the hares in the fields and are then released from their leads to chase, and often kill, the hare. Frequently the practice is highly organised. Significant sums of money can change hands in the form of illegal betting and gambling on the outcome. The victor is determined by the first dog to catch and ‘turn’ the hare or kill it.
Rural Sergeant for Hertfordshire Jamie Bartlett said:
Those engaged in this illegal act trespass on private land, damaging crops and property, as well as intimidating and showing violence towards those who challenge their presence. It can also be very distressing for members of the public to witness hare coursing.
We also believe that many of those engaged in hare coursing also commit other offences against the rural community, such as theft of farm machinery, diesel, tools and off road vehicles.
Operation Galileo is targeting Hare Coursing throughout the East of England. As part of this operation there are special days of action where Wildlife Crime Officers will be carrying out patrols along with other officers who will receive special local briefings and pay attention to hotspot areas within their districts, dealing robustly with offenders.
Paul Cantwell, Species Enforcement Specialist from Natural England who chairs the group said:
This is the first year that all six Forces in the East of England are all co-operating together in relation to Hare Coursing Operations over the course of a ‘season’. This will help ensure that the East of England will not tolerate people coursing anywhere in the Region. But not only that, we are hoping all other areas of England and Wales will carry out their own operations on these dates to make the countryside a “no go” area for these criminals.
If you think you are witnessing hare coursing in progress call 999 immediately. Anyone other information should be reported via the non-emergency number 101, or online at www.herts.police.uk/report (or via other Forces online reporting tools).
Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org. No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will never need to go to court.