Zoë Metcalfe said: “Illegal hare coursing has blighted rural communities across North Yorkshire for too long so these new criminal offences are welcome steps forward at tackling the gangs who have felt they are beyond the law.
“The amendments to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will ensure the huge efforts of North Yorkshire Police to support farmers and landowners in catching and preventing hare poachers are backed up by strengthened laws and tougher sentences.
“The changes are long overdue, and come after years of campaigning, much of it led by the Commissioner’s office in North Yorkshire, and from groups like the CLA and Yorkshire Agricultural Society, so I am pleased action is finally being taken.”
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* increasing the maximum penalty for trespassing in pursuit of game under the Game Acts (the Game Act 1831 and the Night Poaching Act 1828) to an unlimited fine and introducing – for the first time – the possibility of up to six months’ imprisonment.
* two new criminal offences: firstly, trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare; and secondly, being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare both punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.
* new powers for the courts to order, on conviction, the reimbursement of costs incurred by the police in kennelling dogs seized in connection with a hare coursing-related offence.
* new powers for the courts to make an order, on conviction, disqualifying an offender from owning or keeping a dog.