Hare coursing falls thanks to 'borderless' police initiative

A hare from the Flickr account of Levon Levonian

A hare from the Flickr account of Levon Levonian - Credit: Archant

Hare coursing throughout Herts, Cambs, Beds and neighbouring counties has fallen by almost a third following an initiative by local police forces.

The ‘borderless’ scheme has helped crackdown on rural crime after Hertfordshire Constabulary teamed up with six other forces in September. 

The borders between Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent forces had been removed to use tactics that helped apprehend and prosecute offenders with ease. 

This has led to hare coursing incidents throughout the seven forces areas falling from 2,044 in 2020-2021 to 1,415 in 2021-2022, a drop of 31 per cent. 

The Crown Prosecution Service provided support for this agreement, which meant the forces became one when using certain powers. 

Over the last six months, this has helped with the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and the sharing of all interaction and movements of people suspected to be involved. It also supported ‘Operation Galileo’, an ongoing national initiative against hare coursing. 

Sergeant Ryan Hemmings, from Hertfordshire’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST), said: “All the above 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. 

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“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.” 

Usually, hare coursing starts in September when the fields have been harvested and ploughed, which makes the ground perfect for the illegal animal cruelty sport.  

Hare coursing causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens the rural community as it could result in intimidation and also violence.  

Landowners have been advised to consider blocking entrances to their fields with ditches, fencing, trees or using barriers such as barrels 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.” 

The borders between seven forces had been removed to use tactics that helped apprehend and prosecute offenders with ease. 

The borders between Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent forces had been removed to use tactics that helped apprehend and prosecute offenders with ease. - Credit: Hertfordshire Constabulary

Sally Robinson, a district Crown 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.” 

Contact the police immediately on 999 if you spot hare coursing taking place and give the officers a description of the people involved, any registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and the location and direction of travel. It is important people don’t 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, call the non-emergency number 101.