Hare coursing has been illegal throughout the UK since 2005 when the Hunting Act 2004 made it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs. In recent years there has been a significant increase in incidences and the activity has become notably more organised with increasingly violent escalations. In Cambridgeshire alone, incidents increased by 40% from 1184 cases in 2016 to 1634 cases in 2017.
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- Consider methods of restricting access to your land, such as blockades in entrance ways, strategic ditch digging and padlocking gates.
- Ensure that you consult your local rights of way access officer for guidance where public access may be affected. Also check that any ditches or other obstacles do not affect your cross-compliance requirements.
- Always report incidences no matter how minor so that the police have an accurate reflection of the extent of the issue.
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- If it is a ‘live’ incident always dial 999, otherwise dial 101.
- Find out if you have a dedicated rural crime officer with a direct contact number.
- Make sure you clearly state ‘hare coursing’ to ensure that the incident is recorded correctly.
- Have field grid references ready – these will ensure police can locate you quickly. Find out how what3words can provide accurate locations for use in these types of situations.
- If possible provide a description of the person including notable features, and also descriptions of any vehicles including number plates and any distinguishing features.
- Be discreet when collecting evidence. Approaching hare coursers whilst holding a camera may be inflammatory. If you use a dashcam you may want to pass any footage to the police as evidence.
- Ensure that you receive and make note of your crime reference number.
- Join your local countryside watch if available to gain forewarning of coursers in the area.
The NFU works with the British Association for Shooting & Conservation (BASC) on poaching issues, and BASC offer useful advice on what to do if you have poachers on your land:
- If you see or are aware of poachers on your land and want them off, call the police.
- Call 999 if a crime is in progress or 101 to report a crime after it has taken place.
- Give the call taker as much information as you have, such as vehicles used, how many offenders, do they have firearms, etc.
- Give as good a location as you can, especially at night.
- The most important thing is to get an incident or log number for what you are reporting.
- You might be told that there is nobody to send immediately, but insist on the incident/log number.
- Ask for the incident to be forwarded to the Wildlife Crime Officer and the local beat officer.
The NFU supports Project Poacher, an initiative that includes:
- Advice and support for law enforcers.
- A free, easy-to-use app for reporting poaching incidents.
NFU members could well find the app a useful tool for reporting poaching crimes (including hare coursing). The app is available for iPhone, Android & Windows Phone and can be downloaded at www.projectpoacher.com.
The aims of Project Poacher are to coordinate action across England and Wales through:
- Prevention – offering best advice to farmers, landowners, gamekeepers, shooting and land management organisations regarding measures to put in place to prevent poaching and disruption mechanisms.
- Intelligence – to allow the police to target offenders.
- Enforcement – with good intelligence the police can target poachers through the various rural and poaching based operations run throughout England and Wales.
- Reassurance – by working together and by publicising resulting actions such as activity, arrests, seizures and convictions.
Urgent: If a crime is in progress dial 999.
Non-Urgent: Dial 101 to report a crime after it has taken place.
Provide information: Contact the Rural Crime Hotline to give information 100% anonymously. You can submit information online at www.ruralcrimehotline.co.uk or call the dedicated Rural Crime Hotline on 0800 783 0137.
- Read the NFUs Combatting Rural Crime report
- Find out how using the what3words app could help locate crime
- NFU members can read our business guide on hare coursing