After pledging to raise the matter of rural crime with Government Ministers, Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, has written to Victoria Atkins MP – the Minister for Rural Crime. In his letter, Graham says the time is right for a cross-departmental summit including the Home Office, DEFRA and the Ministry of Justice to come together with Graham and other concerned parliamentary colleagues.
Graham said “Rural crime, and hare coursing in particular, is a blight on many constituencies with flat, wide-open areas of arable land. The police are doing their best to stop the criminals coming into the countryside to commit the crime of hare coursing, but in many instances they don’t have the tools they need. I think we can do better and that if we bring together all the relevant Government departments with MPs, farmers and the CLA, we can work out a better way of bringing hare coursing to an end.”
Having already written to the Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner, Graham believes it’s important to take steps at both a national and a local level.
While meeting recently with local farmers through Holderness Farm Watch and local National Farmers Union branches, Graham heard first-hand about concerns over current levels of rural crime, which mean that isolated farmers can find themselves having to face down trespassers by themselves.
Of particular concern was hare coursing; letting multiple dogs off their leads in order to hunt down and kill wild hares. Those involved in the underground practice, which was banned by the Hunting Act 2004, are often involved in criminal gangs and can be linked to wider crime.
Libby Bateman, rural adviser for the Country Land and Business Association, commented on the need for action: “Hare coursing isn’t simply chasing wildlife around a field, it is high-stakes illegal betting, and participants are often involved in other criminal activity. The practice is disruptive to the brown hare population as well as rural businesses when crops are damaged by trespassers.
“Farmers, landowners and police officers are working hard to tackle the problem of hare coursing through Operation Galileo, but legislative change is needed to prevent repeat offending by these thugs.
“We welcome Graham’s help to secure a meeting to drive forward some of these changes to increase the rate and severity of convictions.”
The Conservative manifesto included a specific commitment to tackling rural crime, and Graham is pushing for it to be kept at the top of the agenda given the recent increase in hare coursing crimes in Beverley and Holderness.
Members of the public also play an important part in stamping out rural crime. If you see any suspicious behaviour or evidence of crime then please report it to the police on 101.
photo attached: Graham with CLA Rural Adviser Libby Bateman and Holderness Farm Watch co-ordinator Hollie Harris in 2018