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PAW Scotland news release - 29 December 2010

Hare coursing operation makes a difference

29/12/2010

A joint Hare coursing initiative named Operation Lepus involving Tayside and Grampian Police has been hailed as a success. Both forces have reported a big reduction in hare coursing incidents this year, compared to 2009. In the Grampian area the number more than halved.

The ongoing operation, which was part-funded by PAW (Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime) Scotland, saw a concerted effort in the two forces over the months of September and October, traditionally a problem time for this illegal activity. In Grampian there were no reported hare coursing incidents during the period when Lepus patrols were being conducted and in Tayside only three incidents.

Hare coursing involves the hunting of brown hares using dogs, normally lurchers. The hares are pursued over flat arable land, this chase usually resulting in the hare being caught and killed.

Operation Lepus was first initiated in Tayside Police in 2005 and later adopted by Grampian Police in 2007.

Apart from this being classed as an illegal hunting method, the presence of these dogs and people on farms and estates can cause livestock to become distressed and it is not uncommon for fences to be damaged and for livestock to be injured.

The activity was made illegal in 2002 under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act.

Those who are convicted can receive a custodial sentence of up to 6 months and a fine up to £5,000. They also risk having dogs and vehicles confiscated.

Roseanna Cunningham, Minister for Environment and chair of PAW Scotland said:

"Hare coursing is cruel and those who indulge in such illegal sports should know that the police are alert to their activities.

"This joint approach, which is funded by PAW Scotland, has rolled out from Tayside to Grampian and is a good example of the steps that police forces are taking to improve their response to wildlife crimes.

"I congratulate both the forces and all the partner organisation that have supported this operation and I hope to see more collaborations like this in the future."

Dave MacKinnon, Force Wildlife Crime Officer, Grampian Police said:

"We were very pleased to secure funding from PAW Scotland which allowed these additional patrols to be carried out.

"It allowed us to be pro-active, as well as attending to reports by 'keepers or farmers as we have done in the past.

"In terms of incident numbers for Grampian for year 2009 v 2010 we are looking at 73 incidents in 2009 compared to 32 incidents in 2010."

Alan Stewart, Force Wildlife Crime Officer, Tayside Police said:

"While the scourge of hare coursing is still with us I feel we are making a difference, with three cases detected during this two-month operation.

"Many farmers and gamekeepers were visited during the operation and given guidance on how best to secure evidence that will allow the police to prepare a case for the procurator fiscal.

"Like Grampian, hare coursing incidents have reduced from 44 incidents in 2009 to 28 in 2009."

Doug McAdam, CEO of the Scottish Rural Property & Business Association chair of the Scottish Poaching & Hare Coursing Crime Priority Group said:

"Active awareness raising in rural communities, intelligence gathering, responsive policing and then enforcement action on the ground are key in combating these crimes and we are now seeing the results.

"SRPBA's estate and farming members will continue to support Tayside and Grampian Police to make further progress in combating this area of rural crime."

ENDS

For further information contact:

Grampian Police - Constable David MacKinnon, 01224 304 111

Tayside Police - Alan Stewart, 01738 892 650

BACKGROUND

Thanks to funding from PAW Scotland officers involved in Operation Lepus this year were able to carry out additional patrols; carry out leaflet drops at appropriate premises; and visit farms and estates to make staff aware of the operation.

PAW Scotland is the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. PAW Scotland partners include a wide range of bodies committed to tackling wildlife crime including conservation, land management, shooting and law enforcement organisations.

PAW Scotland defines wildlife crime as any unlawful act or omission, which affects any wild creature, plant or habitat, in Scotland.

More information can be found at www.PAW.Scotland.gov.uk.