Police taking action against hare coursers in Essex

PUBLISHED: 10:00 30 August 2020

PC Matt Harkness from the Rural Engagement Team. Picture: Liv Bawden

PC Matt Harkness from the Rural Engagement Team. Picture: Liv Bawden

Essex Police

Essex Police are taking action against hare coursing. They’ve made arrests, seized vehicles and mobile phones, and more. Members of the public who spot hare coursing should call 999.

Illegal hare coursing tracks which have damaged Essex fields. Picture: Essex PoliceIllegal hare coursing tracks which have damaged Essex fields. Picture: Essex Police

Hare coursers are again illegally entering and damaging farm fields and encouraging their dogs to kill hares, while they bet and laugh.

In a two week period earlier this month, 32 incidents were reported to Essex Police.

Essex Police Rural Engagement Team have been working closely with landowners and communities, to help increase reporting.

They have reported several people for hare coursing, have seized a number of vehicles, and reported drivers for various traffic offences.

The Rural Engagement Team have seized vehicles connected to illegal hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex PoliceThe Rural Engagement Team have seized vehicles connected to illegal hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex Police

They have also helped to rehome abandoned coursing dogs that were being mistreated.

One of these recent incidents was just outside of Dunmow.

Uttlesford Community Policing Team worked alongside their Rural Engagement Team colleagues on Operation Galileo, a 12-force inititiave led by Lincolnshire Police.

The Rural Engagement Team have seized vehicles connected to illegal hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex PoliceThe Rural Engagement Team have seized vehicles connected to illegal hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex Police

PC Matt Harkness from the Rural Engagement Team said: “Overall, we’ve seen a 17 percent reduction in hare coursing reports over the last year and we are working to keep improving on this.

“It not only affects the landowners, but the bigger picture includes incidents of vandalism of property, theft of farm plant, and road traffic offences.

“This all has a detrimental effect and has impacted on the wider local community.”

He added: “We are working closely with the local rural and farming communities as well as partner agencies to combat this issue. I’m pleased to say that the information we receive really has helped the team, and I’d ask you to please continue to assit us and combat this illegal activity.”

Essex Police have been taking action against hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex PoliceEssex Police have been taking action against hare coursing activities. Picture: Essex Police

Anyone who sees coursing in progress should call 999 immediately, and give as much detail as possible, including vehicles details, descriptions, and location of where the incident is taking place.

Information on the crime after the event can be reported through 101 or online through www.essex.police.uk

Over the border, Cambridgeshire Rural Cops shared a video showing 10 hares killed in one night, where there was also damage to fences and crops.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit is supporting police analytical work alongside the NFU, CLA and other organisations.

Hare coursing, which was banned in 2004, sometimes involves live streaming and bets often worth thousands of pounds.

Farmers and landowners who challenge these trespassers have faced violence. They also have the cost of the aftermath to land and crop damage.

One farmer who asked not to be identified said: “Apart from the damage and destruction to land it’s very disheartening to see them picking these hares off with dogs the way they do.

“If members of the public see it happening they should be dialing 999. It’s a really nasty crime and it needs to be reported to the police.”

A CLA East member said: “We live in fear of being targeted as we know how vicious the people that take part in hare coursing can be. We’ve got the scars to show for it.”

CLA regional director Cath Crowther said they want tougher penalties for hare coursers, and she said the damage wasn’t confined to fields or crops, as fences and gates were being damaged.

Brian Finnerty of NFU East said: “It’s an ongoing concern for us in Essex and in Cambridgeshire.

“They cause damage to fields, they use violence and intimidation. There’s some big money involved.

“They are betting with each other which dog catches which hare.”

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