Farmers alarmed by hare coursing surge in South Holland

DISPERSAL ORDER: Police seized a Mercedes from suspected hare coursers in Sutterton under powers from a dispersal order in force on Wednesday, December 21.  Photo by Lincolnshire Police.
DISPERSAL ORDER: Police seized a Mercedes from suspected hare coursers in Sutterton under powers from a dispersal order in force on Wednesday, December 21. Photo by Lincolnshire Police.
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South Holland and Lincolnshire are facing an epidemic of hare coursing and the problem is “out of control”, according to a leading spokesman for farmers.

NFU county adviser for Holland (Lincs) Gordon Corner told police to “step up to the mark” and stop a rising tide of hare coursing which he said had “rocketed” since September 1.

Police put a ten-hour dispersal order in place across Lincolnshire last Wednesday when suspected hare coursers were told to leave the county and not come back within a certain time.

Three men from Leicestershire were told to leave Sutterton last Wednesday and police also seized a Mercedes under the order which, if ignored, would be considered a criminal offence.

Mr Corner said: “The dispersal order is a welcome step in the fight against hare coursing in the county, if it has indeed had any effect.

“However, hare coursing is out of control in Lincolnshire, the number of incidents has rocketed and both farmers and growers are desperately fending off hare coursers trespassing on their land almost every day in many parts of the county. “The threats and intimidation used by coursers as they travel round the county in pursuit of hares has reached an unacceptable level and the time has come for action to stop them.

It is now time for the Police to step up to the mark and use the powers and resources at their disposal to stop hare coursing in Lincolnshire

NFU county adviser for Holland (Lincs) Gordon Corner

“The NFU will be interested to hear the results of the dispersal order and whether coursers were arrested, their dogs and cars impounded and prosecutions brought.

“Without a significant deterrent, coursers will continue to come to Lincolnshire and both the NFU, our farmers and growers are deeply concerned and frustrated that the situation has worsened this year.

“It is now time for the Police to step up to the mark and use the powers and resources at their disposal to stop hare coursing in Lincolnshire.”

In September alone, police dealt with 156 hare coursing incidents in the county and exactly 100 in South Holland, Bourne, the Deepings and Boston.

Coun Marc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Lincolnshire, said: “The safety of rural communities has always been a very high priority for me and I have had several meetings with those communities to understand the issues they face.

“I have recently made contact with the Chief Constable to raise these matters and to make clear the importance I place on rural community safety.

“I believe that Lincolnshire Police is currently assessing the most effective operational response and the dispersal order is only the beginning.

“But I hope the whole of the Lincolnshire community understand the pressures on policing resources, which are only heightened at this time of year.

“A recent HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary) report has established that Lincolnshire Police provides a good service for one of the lowest costs per head.

“This issue is just one example of why it is vital that our county force gets a fair deal in funding for the future.”

Fears over hare coursing in South Holland came to head earlier this month when one farmer came under attack in Deeping Fen earlier this month.

Lincolnshire Police is yet to release results of its dispersal order day last Wednesday, but ex-NFU Holland (Lincs) branch chairman Ian Stancer said: “So far, we haven’t been badly affected.

“However, local farmers have had severe problems and are on high alert.

“Dispersal orders will have limited effect as the culprits simply move on to blight another county, only to return another day.

“The police know full well who most of these people are as they blatantly display their activities on social media.

“But they just haven’t got the manpower and resources to round them up whilst in the act.

“Therefore, we need stronger legislation to catch them and deter them.”

Sutton Bridge farmer and South Holland District Council member Michael Booth said: “We get hare coursers round here nearly every day and the other day, I called the police to report suspected hare coursers that I saw here.

“I was very pleased with the action they took, but the one thing that’s worrying me is if the farming community starts taking the law into their own hands, there will be reprisals.”

Ben Underwood, of the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), said: “The high number of hare coursing incidents in south Lincolnshire, and across into neighbouring counties, has caused the CLA and its members in the region an enormous amount of concern.

“The current number of incidents in the county begs a hard-line, zero-tolerance approach to the crime and while a dispersal order helps in dealing with the problem, it does so for only a short period of time.

“Farmers and landowners are being intimidated and while police officers are working hard to catch up with suspects, they do not have the manpower to really get on top of what is a very serious situation.

“The PCC needs to give urgent reassurances that there will be an escalation in police action against hare coursing.

“He (Coun Jones) also needs to be working towards strengthening the police presence in the county and ensuring rural communities have confidence this problem is going to be brought under control.”