Bedfordshire Police have joined up with six neighbouring forces in the Eastern Region to combat hare coursing.
Hare coursing is an illegal blood sport, where dogs are used to catch and kill hares. It threatens the rural community, harms animal welfare and damages crops.
Borders between Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent have been removed for certain operations, making apprehension and prosecution of offenders easier.
Police Constable Stuart Grant from Bedfordshire Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to reach this agreement. It’s an important step forward in our ongoing efforts to tackle hare coursing and rid our rural areas of this cruel blood sport.
“The agreement effectively means that anyone caught committing anti-social behaviour (ASB) related to coursing, say in Norfolk, would be seen as also committing this in Kent.
“If the same person were to carry on their behaviour in Kent, proactive measures can take place using the ASB legislation, and if that same person was to continue for a third time, in say Bedfordshire, a prosecution can commence – alongside any other action as a result of early behaviour.”
The agreement means forces become one when using certain powers, making it easier to prosecute offenders. It will assist with the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and the sharing of information regarding suspects.
Anyone involved in three incidents of ASB relating to hare coursing will be prosecuted regardless of what area(s) they committed the offences in.
Following prosecution, officers can then enforce driving disqualifications, criminal behaviour orders and the removal of assets (such as dogs and vehicles).
The move is in accordance with national initiative ‘Operation Galileo’ which tackles hare coursing.
Hare coursing usually begins after the harvest in September.
Under the 2004 Hunting Act, it is an offence to hunt wild animals with dogs. Convicted offenders can receive a fine of up to £5,000.
Anyone who witnesses hare coursing should call police immediately on 999 and provide officers with a description of the people involved, vehicle descriptions and registration numbers, and the location and direction of travel.
Police stress that it is important people don’t confront hare coursers or put themselves at risk. Hare coursing can often result in intimidation and violence.
Anyone with information on hare coursing, that is not currently happening, should call 101 or report it online here