New legislation proposed by Westminster government on hare coursing

Photo via shutterstock

Yesterday the Westminster government announced its intentions to crack down on cruel and illegal hare coursing. Wild Justice welcomes these proposals.

The main points are:

  • 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.

Wild Justice has played a small part in helping government to get to this point. This is what we’ve done:

  • met senior police officers to learn what they thought was the way forward
  • met with the NFU and offered our help and support
  • promoted a petition on this subject by including it in our newsletter over a year ago
  • worked as part of Wildlife and Countryside Link to recommend some of the changes that have now been accepted by government

As we say, we’ve only played a small role in this issue because it’s quite a crowded field (as it were). Hunting and farming organisations have largely worked on their own and separately from conservation and animal welfare organisations who have approached the issue from a different perspective. Wild Justice is obviously interested in the legal aspects of this issue, and the fact that this is one of the many wildlife crimes that need sorting out in the countryside. We look forward to seeing some action taken on wildlife crimes by government and landowners in other areas, particularly upland areas. There are clear parallels – crimes against wildlife, motivated by killing for entertainment and profit, occurring in remote rural areas.

You may be interested to listen to this piece on yesterday’s Today programme (from 52.48 to 57.00) where Chief Inspector Phil Vickers describes some of the facts behind hare coursing. The strange part of the interview is that landowners are seen as the victims of this illegal activity and Brown Hares, who certainly are victims, hardly get a mention…