New measures proposed by the Government could bring relief to farmers suffering from illegal hare coursing.
Following lobbying by the NFU and other rural organisations demonstrating the violence and intimidation that hare coursing has inflicted on farmers and rural communities, as well as the impact it has on wild hare populations, the government has now tabled its own amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The amendments reflect what the NFU has been urging the government to implement for several years and it is hoped that these crucial changes will help deter criminals from taking part in illegal hare coursing.
The amendments will enable police forces to seize more dogs, courts to ban convicted offenders from keeping dogs and to strengthen penalties by lifting the existing limit on fines.
NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said the NFU welcomes the government plans as they will strengthen the law and give rural police forces and the courts the necessary powers to tackle hare coursing and the wider problem of organised crime.
“Our members have had to deal with the impact of illegal hare coursing for far too long and they will be relieved that, after much campaigning by the NFU and others over many years, there is now light at the end of the tunnel,” said Mr Roberts.
“I hope this will signal the start of a real crackdown on these organised gangs of criminals who break onto fields to let dogs loose to chase hares, causing huge damage to crops and farm property and intimidating people living in rural communities.
He added that the there is still work to be done to protect the countryside and farming families from the impacts of other forms of rural crime: “We know the public are behind us in supporting greater police action so they too can enjoy a safer, cleaner and greener rural Britain, and we will continue to work with government to make that become a reality.”