Police operation to clamp down on hare coursing

A POLICE-LED initiative to “stop illegal hare coursing for good” is underway in Uttlesford.

Officers have launched a campaign against the criminal activity which involves using greyhounds or other dogs to chase and catch hares in the countryside.

North Uttlesford’s neighbourhood police sergeant Mick Ashton described it as “barbaric” and vowed to stamp out coursing with the help of farmers and mounted police units.

“We have good links in the area and we are aiming to stop this activity for good,” he said. “We do not want to displace it but want to get rid of it.

“Hare coursing is a disgusting crime, some of the pictures we have at the station show what can happen to animals after they are mauled by dogs – it is a barbaric activity.

“The introduction of mounted police will act as a serious deterrent and, with the help of communities and local landowners, we will catch individuals and groups and they will face fines, confiscations or even prison.”

At the Tuesday morning launch co-ordinators from the Essex Farm Watch initiative were present and praised the police for stepping up their efforts.

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One of them was Stansted resident Richard Broad. He said: “We want the people responsible caught and then brought to book.

“We are eager to assist and have recently set up tri-monthly meetings. We also have an e-mail tree that can get a police response within a few hours of anyone spotting coursing or other rural crimes.

“It is good to see mounted police will be patrolling as it is something we have asked for and will provide a very visible deterrent.”

Police will target large, flat fields that no longer contain crops after the autumn harvest and will be covering most of rural Uttlesford.

Areas of main concern surround the villages of Great and Little Chesterford, Ickleton, Littlebury, Debden and Wimbish – but police will monitor all areas.

Coursing is a seasonal activity. Criminals use fields between November and February when there are no crops, making it easy to see the animals involved.

Dogs are pitted against each other in pairs and often money is placed on who will catch the hare first.

Although hare coursing is the primary concern after being made illegal in 2005, a number of crimes are often perpetrated by the same groups of people.

Seg Ashton said that the people involved are almost always not from the area and come from the cities.

“It is not just the coursing,” he said. “Theses people trespass with large vehicles, ruining farmland, and they also have involvement in other criminal activities such as fuel and metal theft. All of which we take very seriously. We will catch them”.

IS HARE coursing a problem in your area? E-mail us at editor@saffronwalden-reporter.co.uk.