Huntingdonshire MPs Jonathan Djanogly and Shailesh Vara joined ministerial colleagues from Essex, Linconshire, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to discuss hare coursing.

Shailesh VaraShailesh Vara

The group of MPs met with members of the Countryside and Landowners Association (CLA) and police and crime commissioner, Jason Ablewhite, at Westminster, on October 16 in an attempt to tackle the issue.

CLA members own or manage more than 10 million acres of rural land across England and Wales and have been highlighting the seriousness of the hare coursing and the impact it is having on communities.

CLA members called on MPs to introduce sentencing guidelines specifically related to the crime.

According to police figures, 720 cases of hare coursing were reported in Cambridgeshire between October 2015 and January 2016, with 831 reports between October 2016 and January 2017 - an average of seven reports each day.

Jonathan Djanogly with Jason Ablewhite and CLA membersJonathan Djanogly with Jason Ablewhite and CLA members

CLA president, Tim Breitmeyer, said: “Hare coursing is illegal and an abhorrent crime that causes damage to land and property and those who seek to intervene are often threatened, intimidated or attacked.

He continued: “Hare coursers are hardened criminals who make large sums of money as a result of black market gambling, and tough action is needed to stop them. Introducing specific sentences for hare coursing and helping police reclaim kennelling costs for dogs seized from offenders would help to deter the crime and make rural communities feel safer.”

Hare coursing is a rural crime where dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares with betting on the outcome. It was outlawed by the 2004 Hunting Act but takes place illegally without the permission of the landowner.

CLA member Jonathan Davis, a gamekeeper who attended the event, said: “Gamekeepers are very much on the frontline. Organised gangs of criminals are using high-powered 4x4 vehicles and dogs specifically bred to kill. Tens of thousands of pounds can change hands in a single night. We need more support and better legislation to deter hare coursing and associated wildlife crimes such as poaching.”