Closed petition Change the law to increase sentencing for Hare coursing and poaching.

Hare/deer coursing/ poaching is illegal. At present the punishment is not fit for purpose. Repeat offenders are not deterred with the small fines handed out. Increased fines and custodial sentences are required.

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As well as animal welfare issues there are various other offences that occur during coursing. From trespass, often armed trespass, crop damage, and dangerous driving. Theft and criminal damage are also linked. Intimidation and threats of violence are commonplace.
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.

This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months

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Government responded

This response was given on 27 April 2021

The Government deplores the cruel and illegal practice of hare coursing. It is aware of the concerns raised. Poaching (including hare coursing) is one of the UK's six wildlife crime priorities.

Read the response in full

The Government deplores the cruel and illegal practice of hare coursing. It recognises the problems and distress which poaching and hare coursing cause for local communities. Poaching (including hare coursing and poaching of deer) is one of the UK's six wildlife crime priorities, which are set for the National Wildlife Crime Unit by the UK Wildlife Crime Tasking and Co-ordination Group which is chaired by the Chief Constable Wildlife Crime lead.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit, jointly funded by Defra, the Home Office, the Scottish Government, the Northern Ireland Executive and National Police Chief’s Council, continues to support efforts to tackle poaching and hare coursing, assisting regional police forces in tackling these crimes by gathering and analysing intelligence, sharing this with the police and assisting police investigations.

All hare coursing is illegal under the Hunting Act 2004. Participants in hare coursing may also be prosecuted under other legislation, including the Game Acts (Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828).

The Deer Act 1991 makes clear that any person who enters any land without the consent of the owner or occupier, or other lawful authority, in search or pursuit of any deer with the intention of taking, killing or injuring it, is guilty of an offence.

Those convicted of wildlife crimes, including hare coursing, can face significant penalties. The maximum penalty that can be imposed is determined in the relevant legislation. The Government is aware of concerns that the maximum penalty available should be increased, and we will keep the matter under review. Any change to the legislation would require parliamentary approval.

Sentencing is entirely a matter for our independent courts. When deciding on an appropriate sentence, within the maximum penalty, the courts must take into account the circumstances of each case and consider any aggravating and mitigating factors. Where a fine is imposed, this is based on the seriousness of the offence and the court will also consider the offender’s financial circumstances and assess what they can reasonably afford to pay. Courts must also follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, issued by the independent Sentencing Council. The Council’s ‘General guideline: overarching principles sets out non-exhaustive lists of aggravating and mitigating factors which the court may consider when sentencing and guidance on the setting of a fine.

In September 2020 Defra convened a roundtable meeting with a range of rural organisations, the police and the Home Office to consider the current position on hare coursing. Hare coursing was also the subject of a Westminster Hall debate on 1 December 2020. The Government is aware of concerns that the current response to hare coursing needs to be stronger, and will continue discussions with all those concerned, whilst considering what further action could be taken.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This is a revised response. The Petitions Committee requested a response which more directly addressed the request of the petition. You can find the original response towards the bottom of the petition page (https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/560065)

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Original Government response

The Government deplores the cruel and illegal practice of hare coursing. It is aware of the concerns raised. Poaching (including hare coursing) is one of the UK's six wildlife crime priorities.

The Government deplores the cruel and illegal practice of hare coursing. It recognises the problems and distress which poaching and hare coursing cause for local communities. Poaching (including hare coursing and poaching of deer) is one of the UK's six wildlife crime priorities, which are set for the National Wildlife Crime Unit by the UK Wildlife Crime Tasking and Co-ordination Group which is chaired by the Chief Constable Wildlife Crime lead.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit, jointly funded partly by Defra, the Home Office, the Scottish Government, the Norther Ireland Executive and National Police Chief’s Council, continues to support efforts to tackle poaching and hare coursing, assisting regional police forces in tackling these crimes by gathering and analysing intelligence, sharing this with the police and assisting police investigations.

All hare coursing is illegal under the Hunting Act 2004. Participants in hare coursing may also be prosecuted under other legislation, including the Game Acts (Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828).

The Deer Act 1991 makes clear that any person who enters any land without the consent of the owner or occupier or other lawful authority in search or pursuit of any deer with the intention of taking, killing or injuring it, is guilty of an offence.

Significant sanctions are available to the courts to hand down to those convicted of wildlife crimes, including hare coursing. The maximum penalty that can be imposed for any offence is determined in the relevant legislation.

Sentencing is entirely a matter for our independent courts. When deciding on an appropriate sentence, within the maximum penalty, the courts must take into account the circumstances of each case and consider any aggravating and mitigating factors. Where a fine is imposed, this is based on the seriousness of the offence and the court will also consider the offender’s financial circumstances and assess what they can reasonably afford to pay. Courts must also follow any relevant sentencing guidelines, issued by the independent Sentencing Council. The Council’s ‘General guideline: overarching principles sets out non-exhaustive lists of aggravating and mitigating factors which the court may consider when sentencing and guidance on the setting of a fine.

In September 2020 Defra convened a roundtable meeting with a range of rural organisations, the police and the Home Office to consider the current position on hare coursing. Hare coursing was also the subject of a Westminster Hall debate on 1 December 2020. The Government is aware of concerns that the current response to hare coursing needs to be stronger and will continue discussions with all those concerned, whilst considering what further action could be taken.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

This response was given on 15 March 2021. The Petitions Committee then requested a revised response, that more directly addressed the request of the petition.

Government announces plans for new animal welfare laws

As part of the Queen's Speech on Tuesday 11th May, the Government announced that it plans to introduce new laws to protect and promote the highest standards of animal welfare in the UK.

The Government's proposals are set out in a new Action Plan for Animal Welfare, which was published this week. Its proposals focus on improving the welfare of pets and farmed animals, and protecting wild animals in the UK and animals exported or found outside the UK.

The Government intends to introduce three new Bills into Parliament to make these changes - the Animal Welfare (Sentience) Bill, the Kept Animals Bill, and the Animals Abroad Bill. These Bills will be published in due course.

Read more about the Government's plans here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-to-lead-the-way-on-animal-welfare-through-flagship-new-action-plan

Read the Queen's Speech background briefing notes for more information on the Government's proposed Bills:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/queens-speech-2021-background-briefing-notes

What is the Queen's Speech?

The Queen's Speech is the speech that the Queen reads out in the House of Lords Chamber on the occasion of the State Opening of Parliament.

It's written by the Government and sets out the programme of Bills - new laws, and changes to existing laws - that the Government intends to put forward in this new Parliamentary session. A session of Parliament usually lasts around one year.

Once the Government puts forward a Bill in Parliament, Parliament then debates the Government's proposal and decides whether to adopt the changes to the law set out in the Bill.