Hare coursing down by almost a third after 'borderless' police operation success
Hare coursing in the East of England has fallen by almost a third following a ‘borderless’ police operation.
The crackdown on the illegal blood sport comes after Hertfordshire Constabulary teamed up with six other forces in the region last September.
Borders between the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent forces were removed under an agreement, completed with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which meant the seven became one when using certain powers which has made apprehending and prosecuting offenders easier.
Over the past six months this has helped with use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), seizure of dogs and the sharing of all interactions and movements of people suspected to be involved. The move also supports the ongoing national initiative against hare coursing, Operation Galileo.
As a result, incidents across the seven force areas fell from 2,044 in 2020-21 to 1,415 in 2021-22, a drop of 31%.
Sgt Ryan Hemmings, from Hertfordshire’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST), said: “All the tactics, together with the issuing of community protection warnings (CPWs), community protection notices (CPNs) and the granting of criminal behaviour orders (CBOs), has seen a region-wide reduction of coursing incidents.
“This is a great achievement by all seven forces and the CPS. Our collaboration shows how determined we are to tackle the barbaric actions of a few that cause significant physical and mental harm to those in our rural communities.
“We will continue with the collaboration and continue to work together to further reduce illegal coursing, lamping and poaching.”
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September when fields have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground. The blood sport damages crops, harms animal welfare and threatens the rural community. It can result in intimidation and even violence.
Landowners are urged to consider blocking entrances to their fields with ditches, fencing, trees or even barriers like barrels filled with concrete.
Hertfordshire’s Deputy Chief Constable Bill Jephson said: “The forces across the Eastern region have tackled an issue which we know causes a lot of concern to those that live and work in the rural areas of our counties.
“This successful collaboration, together with new legislation hopefully being introduced by the Government to tackle hare coursing, will hopefully reduce further incidents of this nature and allow our rural crime teams to concentrate on other issues that affect our rural communities, using a preventative approach.”
Sally Robinson, a district prosecutor for the CPS, said: “Those who commit hare coursing have historically exploited the borders of neighbouring forces to continue their illegal activities, causing the extreme suffering and unlawful killing of hares, whilst also having a harmful effect on our rural communities.
“By using the legal expertise of the CPS and the operational knowledge of seven police forces in an innovative and collaborative way to effectively remove those borders, we have collectively built stronger cases for prosecution and made it harder for the perpetrators to offend in the future.
“The CPS takes wildlife crime seriously and we will continue to work closely with the police and other partners to bring offenders to justice whenever our legal test is met.”
Anyone who sees hare coursing taking place is asked to call police immediately on 999 and provide officers with a description of the people involved, any vehicle descriptions, registration numbers and location and direction of travel. People should not confront hare coursers or put themselves at risk.
If you have information about hare coursing and it’s not currently happening, or have been a victim of the crime, you can report this online at herts.police.uk/report, speak to an operator in the force communications room via online web chat at herts.police.uk/contact or call non-emergency number 101.