The new powers will legislate against the criminal gangs who intimidate land owners and farmers in rural areas like Lincolnshire and damage property in order to pursue their lucrative, illegal gambling enterprise where clients bet on dogs filmed or live streamed, illegally hunting down hares
Lincolnshire was the first force in the UK to use the tactic of seizing hare coursers’ dogs as far back as 2017 – but the new legislation will mean the costs of kennelling the dogs can be seized from the offenders.
PCC Marc Jones has been calling for stricter new laws since taking office in 2016 and has invested millions of pounds equipping the force to protect rural communities from crime and tackle the organised gangs who often commit them.
Today he welcomed the Government’s announcement and said it will be a game changing step forward in the fight against rural crime.
“The gangs that take part in this activity are also responsible for many other crimes – often causing havoc and spreading misery in the villages and hamlets they prey on,” he said.
“Many of the offenders involved in hare coursing are also involved in organised crime so they have an impact on our whole community too.
“Lincolnshire had always borne the brunt of coursing over the last few years but the changes to legislation we have long called for will deliver an even stronger hand in dealing with the problem.”
In amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill today (Tuesday), the Government has set out measures to strengthen law enforcement for hare poaching.
The full proposals outlined include:
•Increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine and introducing – for the first time – the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
•Two new criminal offences: firstly, trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and secondly, being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare both punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
•New powers for the courts to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence.
•New powers for the courts to make an order, on conviction, disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.