Chief Constable pledges action for farmers over rural crime wave

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Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Caroline Johnson was among a panel of MPs and police chiefs discussing rural crime issues facing farmers.

She was at the meeting in Boston on Friday called by the National Farmers Union, joined by new Lincolnshire Chief Constable Bill Skelly, Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones and his deputy. They heard from over 100 farmers about their experiences with organised gangs of illegal hare coursers, and from the RSPCA about the impact on wildlife.

The Chief Constable told delegates he would be drawing up an action plan to tackle the issues being faced by rural communities.

He also pledged to put more resources into addressing the problems immediately, while Marc Jones insisted partnership working is crucial.

NFU members said the current hare coursing gangs are more organised and threatening, with incidents increasing.

They face destruction to family businesses, while family and staff face intimidation. Social media and drones are being used to organise and film meetings, as thousands of pounds change hands on bets.

As a farmer’s wife, Dr Johnson understood the issues and said she was reassured by the police commitment, as well as more training being given to magistrates to ensure proper sentencing. She said: “I will be keeping a close eye on progress on police response times, arrests and prosecutions.”

Mr Skelly said: “We have already committed more officers to tackling this. We will look at the way we gather information and use it, consider how we collaborate with other forces and also explore new technologies.

“We may not stop the problem completely, but I am confident farmers will see a change for the better in the near future.”

Mr Jones said the best way to tackle hare coursing is to confiscate the dogs, adding: “We are getting support from our MPs in ensuring we have the right laws and the appropriate funding to address rural crime and we need the justice system to make sure offenders are dealt with strongly.”