Opinion: ‘Welcome Crackdown on illegal hare coursing’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 8th January 2022, 2:00 pm
New legislation will help police officers deal with hare coursing gangs
New legislation will help police officers deal with hare coursing gangs

One of the things I love about Peterborough is being on the Fens.

The countryside and farmland around our city is part of what makes it special.

Whether you live in the city – like me – or in one of the surrounding villages and hamlets, we all benefit. As the MP for many of those rural communities, and growing up in Whittlesey, I also know they face issues that my urban constituents don’t.

One of those issues is illegal hare coursing.

I wrote in this column almost two years ago about the organised gangs who gather, trespass and drive their heavy 4x4s across local farmland. Within minutes, they can destroy months of hard work, wrecking the crops.

Although it’s illegal, the maximum fine of £5,000 isn’t enough to deter those live-streaming the chase on the internet, where valuable bets are placed from across the world. Some of the dogs are worth more than the vehicles.

We get more than our share of this chaos. Because the land around Peterborough is flat, it’s ideal for those wanting rip through it chasing hares. Then they rip through the hares that they catch.

It’s horrible, cruel and linked to a range of other criminal activities. Farmers in Thorney, Newborough and across the Fens have had enough.

That’s why, ever since I was elected, I have been part of a small group of MPs lobbying for new measures to tackle hare coursing.

And I’m delighted to report some success!

The Government has tabled new amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that will:

– increase the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game to an unlimited fine, with the ability for six months’ imprisonment

– introduce two new criminal offences about using dogs to pursue a hare, again with unlimited fines and up to six months in prison

– allow the courts to disqualify offenders from owning or keeping a dog

– make offenders pay back the cost of kennelling dogs seized in connection with hare coursing.

I am thrilled that the Government listened to us. Cambridgeshire Police have been doing their best, but are hamstrung by the law. Soon they will be able to crack down on these criminals.

It will be soon, despite the agonisingly long time that legislation often takes to be drafted, introduced and passed, with a plethora of consultations along the way.

The Bill has already been through the House of Commons and is nearly through the House of Lords.

I have voted for the Bill 11 times, starting in last March. This is likely to add a few more votes, because amendments come back to MPs, but this will be the law within a month or two.

The same Bill is making unauthorised encampments illegal, which I wrote about back in that column and in many others. Manifesto promises are steadily being delivered.

Lots of the work begun after the election is about to get out of Westminster, onto the statute book and into our city. This will be a year of delivering those promises.

I can’t help feeling positive. It’s my natural inclination, but there are so many things to be positive about.

Problems are there to be fixed.

Hare coursing is there to be stopped. It might not fit with the mood of the times, but some ordinary and important things really are getting better.