Government minister at launch of Lincolnshire's hare coursing offensive

A GOVERNMENT Minster has visited Lincolnshire to witness the launch of a new police operation in the fight against wildlife crime which seriously affects farmers and landowners in the Sleaford area.

Operation Galileo is a new offensive targeting illegal hare coursers.

Lincolnshire has for many years been used by hare coursing, which is the most prevalent wildlife crime in the region. Those involved have even threatened farmers and their families with violence.

Yesterday (Tuesday) Minister for the Environment Huw Irranca Davies visited Lincolnshire Police headquarters for the launch of Operation Galileo. He said "This new partnership will give people in the area affected by this crime the protection and support they need. Meeting the dedicated officers from both Lincolnshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit and hearing how hare coursing affects members of the community I know they will make this a success."

Lincolnshire Police's wildlife crime officer PC Nigel Lound, will be leading the offensive and working closely with the National Farmers Union and the county's farmers, landowners and gamekeepers.

Between September 2008 and March 2009 there were more than 900 reports of hare coursing in Lincolnshire.

PC Lound said: "Operation Galileo is an intelligence-led offensive and the foundations for policing activity have already been laid. A number of letters have already been sent out to known regular offenders warning them that, should they enter Lincolnshire for the illegal purpose of coursing hares, they will be actively targeted."

Anyone who enters Lincolnshire to pursue hare coursing will face immediate arrest, have their vehicles and dogs seized and face a court appearance. This could further result in seized vehicles being disposed of, offenders being banned from driving and also receiving a tough fine.

In March this year, three men from Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Sheffield were arrested for hare coursing near Swineshead. All three were then disqualified from driving, two were banned from driving for six months and one for 18 months. All three received fines.