Why I am campaigning against hare coursing
Right here in South Cambridgeshire, farmers have been so badly impacted by harassment, property damage, threats, and intimidation from perpetrators of these barbaric crimes. As I know from my discussions with them, Cambridgeshire police have been keen to act – our rural crime action team has been leading the way in taking the fight to courses, but didn’t have sufficient powers to do so.
So far, I have:
- Coordinated letters with fellow county MPs and Darryl Preston, the county’s police and crime commissioner, to call for change.
- Met with local farmers, coordinated by Cambridgeshire Countryside Watch,
- Met with both the Home Secretary and Environment Secretary,
- Established a farmers’ forum to put concerns directly to the farming minister,
- Formed a Parliamentary group to lobby for change, arranging for them to meet with cabinet and sub-cabinet ministers.
- Wrote personally to the Prime Minister calling for time to legislate on this important issue.
I am glad to say that the Government, in the face of fierce campaigning, proposed new offences to tackle coursing as part of the the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. In addition to the cruelty to the declining population of brown hares, new crimes crucially target theft, criminal damage, violence and intimidation of farmers and landowners. The government is proposing jail sentences for the first time, as well as new criminal offences and new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs.
In amendments tabled to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the government proposes to
- increase the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game to an unlimited fine and introducing – for the first time – the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
- create 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.
- give the courts new powers to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence and disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.
- disqualify an offender from owning or keeping a dog.