‘Keep dogs and cars’ call as hare coursing reports more than double

Specific guidelines for hare coursing sentences should include the seizure of cars and dogs, said Su

Specific guidelines for hare coursing sentences should include the seizure of cars and dogs, said Suffolk's police and crime commissioner Picture: MICHAEL HALL

Tougher punishment for hare coursers is being called for after reports of the crime more than doubled in a year across Suffolk.

Although a report showed an overall drop in rural crime from 2016 to 2017 – and a further projected fall in 2018 – there was an increase in reported hare coursing from 141 calls in 2016/17 to more than 400 in 2017/18.

This year’s early harvest meant offences were already being reported daily, said the report.

The rise mirrors an increase in neighbouring force areas and will be of high priority for the rural crime team over coming months, said the chief constable.

After the report also revealed a worrying national rise in violence towards officers and landowners by hare coursers, police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “Suffolk is particularly vulnerable to this type of crime due to its big open spaces and population of brown hares.

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“Almost all of those responsible have criminal records. They can be violent, threatening, will trespass and damage property, and very often travel in stolen cars.

“A lot of money changes hands – and that’s why they do it.”

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Mr Passmore said the force had enjoyed considerable success since launching a new rural policing strategy last year, and would see greater emphasis with three dedicated officers and the possibility of more investment.

Earlier this year, the Country Land and Business Association called for tailored sentencing guidelines to include vehicle seizure and compensation for any damage caused by hare coursers.

Mr Passmore supported calls for more consistency and clear guidelines in the courts.

“It’s clear the biggest assets need to be confiscated,” he added.

“The dogs need to be taken away and the cars need to be crushed. We have to put a ring of steel around the county.”

Earlier this month, a seasonal operation was launched to tackle hare coursing in the region.

Operation Galileo involves action days targeting locations known for hare coursing, which was banned under the Hunting Act 2004 and is linked to illegal gambling and criminal damage.

Following the launch, Sergeant Brian Calver, of the rural crime team, appealed for public support.

“If you see it in action call 999,” he added.

“We want to come down hard on these people.”

Other information about hare coursing can be reported on 101.

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