A NEWENT man has been fined more than £1,700 and had his dogs and vehicle confiscated after being caught illegally hare coursing in the Cotswolds.

Anthony Williams, aged 30 of Southend Lane, was convicted of the wildlife crime last Thursday (September 30) after being arrested alongside two boys on New Year’s Day. 

Under cover of darkness, the trio had entered a farm near Cirencester to set their lurcher dogs onto wild hares.

The unfolding crime was witnessed by the gamekeeper of the estate, who immediately called 999. Police officers arrived at the scene promptly and Williams and the two boys were arrested and taken into custody. Their vehicle and the dogs were also seized.

The two boys have already been dealt with separately by a Youth Offending Team, but Williams was summonsed to court to answer for his actions.

The court was told how Williams’ crime was premeditated, that he had subjected numerous hares to cruelty and had caused the landowner and gamekeeper distress.

Williams was convicted of the offence under the 2004 Hunting Act and was ordered to pay a fine of £1,713 within 28 days.

PC Weller from Gloucestershire’s Rural Crime Team said: "The Rural Crime Team work closely with the farming and wildlife protection communities and these acts of cruelty in our county will not be tolerated.

"We will continue to show a zero tolerance policy when it comes to hare coursing as it wreaks so much pain and suffering on the wildlife, as well as disruption and fear in the farming community.

"Knowing this we thought it was more suitable to prosecute Mr Williams under the 2004 Hunting Act which carries a far more substantial fine.

"We will aim to utilise the 2004 legislation in all future prosecutions as it allows us impose the heftier fines, which will act as a greater deterrent."

Between 2005 and 2018 the average UK court-imposed fine for hare coursing was less than £250 when defendants were prosecuted under the Game Act. The maximum fine under the 2004 legislation, which makes it an offence to hunt wild mammals with dogs, is £5,000.