Rochford: Men first to be sentenced in Essex for trespassing with intent to pursue hares with dogs
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In one of the first cases of its kind in the country, two men arrested in Essex by specialist rural engagement officers have been sentenced for trespassing with intent to search for, or to pursue, hares with dogs.
Tommy Gray, 19, of Weller Road, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and 20-year-old Joseph Abercromie, of Heartenoak Road, Hawkhurst, Kent, both admitted the offence when they appeared before Basildon magistrates on 13 July 2023.
The court was told they had both travelled to Paglesham near Rochford on 6 January 2023, Gray from Buckinghamshire and Abercromie from Kent.
They were spotted by members of the public trespassing on fields with two dogs and reported to us.
Officers from the Essex Police Rural Engagement Team and Rayleigh Local Policing Team attended and the pair were arrested and charged with the new offence of trespassing with intent to search for or to pursue hares with dogs, under section 63 of the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act 2022.
Each was fined £250 and ordered to pay £105 costs and a £100 victim surcharge.
Magistrates told them they had travelled a great distance and the offence was ‘planned and deliberate’. They decided against banning either man from driving because it was their first offence and against disqualifying them from owning or keeping dogs because of their family circumstances.
Sgt Ben Felton, from our Rural Engagement Team, says:
“Hare coursing causes landowners, farmers and the rural community a large amount of anxiety because of the damage caused to the land by trespassing. “We won’t tolerate animal cruelty in any form and will seek to prosecute whenever we have evidence of such crimes because we understand the damage, its cost and the fear this cruel crime can cause in our more isolated communities. “This prosecution is the first of its kind in Essex, and among the first in the country, and we won’t hesitate to use the legislation to prevent and deter people from poaching game in our county. “The message is getting out that hare coursers are not welcome in Essex. “During the 2022/23 season we reduced hare coursing incidents across the county by 50% working with the CPS, forces across the eastern region and Kent, with help from the National Police Air Service. “We encourage anyone who sees hare coursing in action to call 999.”
It’s the second time this year Essex Police Rural Engagement Team has been at the forefront of using the additional legislative powers of the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing (PCCS) Act 2022 to target would-be poachers.
In February, two men were convicted under the Game Act 1831 after each admitted a charge of daytime trespass in pursuit of game.
Working with CPS East of England, the team also obtained the first dog prohibition order in England as a result. The men were banned under section 66 of the PCCS Act from owning or keeping dogs for three years. At the time it was thought to be a national first. The men had travelled to the Saffron Walden area from south London with dogs which were to be used to poach game.
What is hare coursing?
Hare coursing traditionally begins in September or October - depending on the weather - when crops have been harvested and ploughed, making them the perfect ground for the illegal blood sport.
Hare coursing causes damage to crops, harms animal welfare and threatens rural communities. It can result in intimidation and even violence.
Landowners are urged to consider blocking entrances to their fields with ditches, fencing or trees or even barriers like barrels filled with concrete.
What can I do to help?
If you see hare coursing taking place, ring 999 immediately and provide as much information as you can – for example, a What3Words location, a description of the people involved, vehicle registration numbers, vehicle descriptions and the location and direction of travel.
When the police give you a reference number, please put this and the day’s date into any WhatsApp groups you are a part of so that anyone in the area with information can ring us and we can link it to the same incident, if relevant.
However, it is very important that you don’t confront hare coursers or put yourself at risk.
If you see anything which you feel needs police attention, or you have information about a crime or criminal activity, always ring 999 if it is an emergency or a crime in progress.
Otherwise, you can report it online, where you can also speak to an online Live Chat operator between 10am and 9pm. Alternatively, you can ring 101.
You can also contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, online or by calling 0800 555 111.
The seven forces of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Norfolk and Suffolk linked up in September 2021 to remove policing borders when certain tactics are used. This has made catching and prosecuting offenders easier.
The agreement, completed with the support of the Crown Prosecution Service, means the forces become one when using certain powers, such as community protection warnings & notices and criminal behaviour orders.
They also share information about automatic number plate recognition (ANPR), the seizure of dogs and all interactions and movements of people suspected to be involved in hare coursing.