by Mo Metcalf Fisher

The Countryside Alliance is pleased to reveal that the government is set to issue a new pledge to tackle hare poachers.

The Alliance, alongside a number of other rural organisations including the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and the NFU, have been campaigning for tougher penalties for hare poachers, to be sanctioned through an amendment to the Game Act 1831.

The coalition of rural groups has long criticised the centuries-old legislation - one of the most significant laws intended to combat such crime - as outdated and archaic. 

But new proposals would give police and courts greater power to tackle offenders in the field, remove the tools of their trade and impose stiffer penalties at conviction.

Hare poaching is a huge problem in some parts of the countryside. It is closely connected to the criminal underworld and involves enormous sums of money.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(DEFRA) outlined its intention to amend the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828 to increase the maximum penalty available to an unlimited fine and up to 6 months’ imprisonment.

DEFRA also confirmed that it would look at introducing a new criminal offence of ‘going equipped’ for hare poaching. The police could also gain a new power that would able them to reclaim, on conviction, the costs of kennelling dogs seized in connection with hare coursing.

Ed Rowlandson, the Alliance’s Political Relations Manager described the news as a ‘breakthrough’.

He said: “ We are incredibly pleased that the government has listened to our concerns on hare poaching and has now made clear to us their intention to introduce legislation to crack down on offenders. 

Providing this does go ahead, it could well be the breakthrough we have been hoping for.”

Mr. Rowlandson added: “ For many years, the Countryside Alliance has worked to highlight the damage hare poachers cause to land and property as well as the intimidation and violence faced by those on whose land they operate. We shall of course be monitoring developments closely and updating members as to when we have more information."

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