South Holland farmers alarmed over 'significant increase' in reports of hare coursing
Farmers in South Holland are increasingly fearful about a surge in hare coursing and the "very intimidating" tactics used by the gangs responsible for it.
Lincolnshire Police's force lead on rural crime, Chief Inspector Phil Vickers, confirmed that reports of hare coursing in the county last month reached their highest level for at least five years.
However, Mr Vickers revealed that November's total was less than the previous month when more than 400 incidents were reported across the county, with South Holland bearing the brunt of the recent surge.
Dowsdale farmer Ian Stancer, ex-chairman of the NFU Holland (Lincs) branch, said: "Hare coursing has been a daily occurrence this autumn and I wouldn’t think there were any farmers who haven't seen coursers and their vehicles on their fields.
"If you get anywhere near these guys, they are certainly very intimidating and if you try to block them in, they'll ram your vehicle and laugh while they're doing it.
"You can make them aware that you're watching them, but they don't really care and as soon as you've reported them, they'll jump in their cars and scarper across the county border."
Crowland farmer Rex Sly said: "Hare coursing is everywhere and so we've taken a lot of precautions by digging ditches and trenches all along the road so the coursers can't drive onto the land.
"But we also farm in Thorney and there's a hardly a day that goes by when the coursers aren't there.
"It's got as bad as it has been for many years and I can't understand why the police aren't getting on top of it."
Sutton Bridge farmer, parish and district councillor Michael Booth said: "Since lockdown earlier this year, hare coursing has been rife in the Sutton Bridge, Lutton Marsh and Gedney Drove End areas.
"It doesn’t seem to matter what day it is as it's happening two to three days a week, with no respect from coursers as to whether they are going across private farmyards, gardens and farmland in their four-wheel drives.
"They drive onto fields, making deep marks on drilled crops, which then fill up with water, and then there are the men with dogs carrying out this terrible blood sport, killing hares and anything else that gets in their way."
Lincolnshire Police is working with 20 other forces across England to try and stop coursers crossing county borders.
But Mr Vickers said: "We've seen a significant increase in the number of incidents reported to us, particularly in the south of the county, and each of these incidents involve a victim in the rural part of the county.
"We don't lose sight of that and so we've made use of a fixed-wing aircraft to gather evidence of hare coursing taking place.
"Ultimately, the safety of the public is always going to be our priority and while having the highest number of hare coursing incidents in November for five years is a disappointing outcome, it is a reduction on the number reported in October. "
. An online petition is currently running to call for a change in the law that would toughen sentences for people convicted of hare coursing.
So far, more than 7,500 people have signed the petition, which says: "Rural crime action teams are successful at apprehending offenders, but they are let down by the law and sentencing.
"There needs to be a more of a deterrent because, at present, the punishment is not fit for purpose and repeat offenders are not deterred by the small fines handed out.
"Increased fines and custodial sentences are required.