Four men given suspended prison sentences for hare coursing

Four men have been given the most severe sentences for hare coursing that we have seen in the UK.

The men were hare coursing in Spalding on 9 November 2022, and were arrested by Lincolnshire Rural Crime officers. All four pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

The four men, aged between 33 and 40, were each given four months’ suspended sentences, which means they will escape prison for their actions. Lincolnshire Police stated that they also received:

“a five year criminal behaviour order not to enter Lincolnshire during the hare coursing season and be on land with a sight hound or be in company with any person with such a dog without permission. They have also received a five year disqualification from keeping dogs, disqualified from driving for six months, all items used in connection with the offence have been forfeited, including their vehicle and their dogs, They have also each received fines of £239.”

Three of the men have also been ordered to pay £3,586 to recover the kennelling costs.

What is hare coursing?

Hare coursing is a sick bloodsport, and Lincolnshire is possibly the most coursed county in the whole country. The sport is also rife in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, too.

Hare coursing usually involves two greyhounds chasing the hare. Bets are placed on which of the two dogs will be able to kill the hare quicker. This often results in a tug of war between the two dogs over the hare and this unsurprisingly causes immense pain and suffering to the terrified animal being ripped to pieces.

Tougher sentencing

On 1 August 2022, the government introduced new laws for hare coursing sentencing. The law came into effect as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act – legislation largely seen as an anti-protest and anti-traveller law.

Because of this, the four men received stricter punishment than we have previously seen for similar acts of animal cruelty. The new measures increase the maximum penalties for convictions under existing legislation, and introduced new criminal offences and new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs. The new criminal offences that someone can now be charged with are:

trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare. Both are punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.

This isn’t the first time that Lincolnshire has used the new law to crack down on coursers. Protect the Wild previously reported:

“on 9 March, Boston magistrates found Darren Lee and Ronnie Doherty guilty of two charges of trespassing with the intent to course hares. As a result, the court handed a bill of more than £11,000 for kennelling and veterinary costs to the pair. It also handed each man £416 in fines. Both were then disqualified from owning dogs for five years. Chief inspector Steve Williams of Lincolnshire Police told BBC News that it was the first convictions using the new law in the county.”

While Protect the Wild welcomes stricter laws on hare coursers, we also recognise that there is police and state bias when it comes to dealing with coursing, as opposed to hunting. For example, police are more dedicated to catching and sending coursers to trial – and even have a UK-wide operation targeting coursing, Operation Galileo – while hare, fox and stag hunters are barely prosecuted.

We urge the government to follow Scotland’s suit and introduce a new law that would ban hunting completely.