Significant rise in hare coursing

11 January 2024

Torn down gates lying in a field

Damage caused by hare coursers at Moundsmere Estate

NFU members in Hampshire have met police officers to discuss a big increase in hare coursing and poaching.

Hampshire farmer Clive Hancock has reported 13 cases to the police since 1 November, after vandals broke into his estate in the middle of the night. Five of those incidents occurred in the fortnight before Christmas Day.

Mr Hancock, who manages Moundsmere Estate near Basingstoke, said: “This criminal activity is really, really horrible. Once the crops have cleared, these people are out on our fields, and the cumulative damage from all these incidents is enormous.

“We are at the centre of it”

“This is by far the worst intensity of criminal activity we have seen, and the other farm manager here says it is has not been this bad in his 40 years in the area.

“It’s not just our estate that is affected by them, all of the surrounding farms have experienced them as well, we just happen to be at the centre of it.”

One particularly harrowing incident occurred one weekend, when vandals entered a holiday cabin on the estate in the early hours and woke up two women who were staying there.

Mr Hancock said: “They had head torches on and bizarrely said they were police before accusing the girls of trespassing and drinking.

“Thankfully, they left without any assault taking place but the girls’ car was parked about half a mile away and they took a gas bottle to their car and wrecked their doors and windows.

“We don’t know if it’s the same people doing it. We have CCTV footage from when they broke into the grounds of the property the other night but haven’t been able to identify them.”

“Every other night, in the early hours of the morning, they gain access to our fields by cutting our gates off and then drive across the fields, doing lots of damage.

“One night they pulled out an entire gate post, drove across our fields, and then went into our neighbour’s farm and destroyed his property.”

Clive Hancock, Moundsmere Estate

Intelligence will help with arrests

Hampshire county adviser Ben Gibbons said: “Hare coursing is a serious crime which puts people, animals and property at risk, and the NFU has been campaigning on members' behalf for better protection for a number of years.

“We saw an increase in penalties and changes in legislation giving police further powers to deal with hare coursing, but it's ultimately intelligence which will help police make arrests.

“We urge members in Hampshire to continue reporting any suspicious activity to the police via 101 or DISC. If it is a ‘live’ incident, always dial 999.

“Providing a grid reference via what3words can also help.”

Continue to report cases

Mr Hancock has met with several police officers from the Basingstoke Rural South team who acknowledged hare-coursing is often a precursor to more serious crimes and that while they take the matter seriously, other crimes may make it necessary to divert their resources.

Hampshire Police have emphasised how challenging it is to catch these individuals in rural areas and urged members of the farming community to continue to report cases of hare coursing.

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