• A shocking real-life account of hare coursing has been revealed by a farmer in Gloucestershire
  • As part of a video created by the OPCC, the farmer reveals how knives have been left outside his children’s windows and how he has been chased by organised crime groups in vehicles, when trying to protect his land
  • This week, the Government has announced plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available to tackle hare coursing in amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
  • PCC Chris Nelson has offered his full support to the tabled changes, explaining that rural crime is one of the priorities in his new Police and Crime Prevention Plan.

Knives left outside the house, farmers chased down in fields by night and families left terrified of repercussions. This is the reality of life for the victims of hare coursing in Gloucestershire – a practice where hares are hunted by organised crime gangs, destroying crops and farmland in the process.

This shocking tale is told by local farmer, as part of a video by Gloucestershire’s Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, highlighting the severity of rural attacks in the county.

View the video here: https://youtu.be/z-hlBpXSzIo

The farmer, who wished to remain anonymous, has been working with Gloucestershire Constabulary’s rural crime team for a number of years, but says his farm has been targeted 44 times last winter alone.

“We’ve had knives left outside the house, they’ve killed hares just outside the girls’ bedrooms, and there’s reports that these people carry firearms with them too.

“It’s no longer a case of poaching the odd rabbit here or there, these are dangerous gangs coming out with lurchers, two or three times per week. They film the hare coursing and sell the footage to make money.”

The video has been released in the same week that the Government announced plans to strengthen the powers and penalties available to tackle hare coursing (Tuesday 4 January 2022).

In amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill today, the Government has set out measures to strengthen law enforcement for hare coursing by increasing penalties, introducing new criminal offences and creating new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs – this includes an order to reimburse the costs incurred when dogs are seized in kennels.

The proposals 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.

Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “Before I was elected, victims of rural crime often told me they felt like ‘second class citizens.’ Their homes and businesses are remote, leaving them vulnerable to attacks from organised criminal groups looking to target their machinery or destroy their land.

“But it’s not just the inconvenience to their livelihood that’s the issue. Farmers are facing threats, their family homes are attacked late at night, sometimes farmers are chased by crime groups in vehicles for trying to protect their land. It leaves farming families anxious and scared, and this is simply not acceptable.

“I have asked the Chief Constable to prioritise rural crime as part of my Police and Crime Prevention Plan, which will be released later this month, and I hope this means the hard-working rural crime team will get the support and resources they need to make a difference to the lives of those living in rural areas.

“I really welcome these proposed changes to the law to tackle hare coursing, which are a blight on farmers lives and their rural communities. Introducing bigger fines, forcing offenders to pay for all kennelling costs when their dogs are seized, and introducing the possibility of prison sentences for serious breaches of the law will all deter the organised criminals conducting this cruel and heartless crime.”