Pc Paul stays the course to protect hares

Hare coursing reduced by 70 per cent in the last eight years

A RURAL police officer is continuing his crusade to eradicate hare coursing in Crow Country.

Pc Paul Marina, who works in the Royston and Baldock rural patch, has already reduced incidents of coursing, which involves dogs chasing and killing hares, by 70 per cent since 2003. The pursuit was banned in England and Wales under the 2004 Hunting Act to protect the endangered brown hare.

“We operate a zero tolerance policy,” said Pc Marina, who is now considered one of the country’s top authorities on preventing hare coursing. “When I started, there were around 120 incidents related to hare coursing every year. Last year there were 24. That means incidents have reduced by 70 per cent.

“Last year, out of 26 call-outs, we arrested 13 people, of which, 12 were convicted or cautioned in connection with hare coursing,” he said.

Those convicted included Jimmy Cash, 45, of Lybury Way, Redbourn, who was given a two-year anti-social behaviour order last May after being found guilty of hare coursing and poaching offences which occurred on land at Sandon Road, Therfield.

Pc Marina has been in the police for the last 27 years, and has been a rural officer for the last eight. Rural policing has always been in his blood - he lives in the countryside, his mother comes from a farming background and his father was also a police officer.

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Last year was one of Pc Marina’s most successful in dealing with illegal coursers and once a case has got to court, to date the officer has a 100 per cent conviction rate.

He maintains a close working relationship with farmers and gamekeepers on his patch, who keep him informed of any suspicious characters or activities.

“We often see the same offenders and they are starting to know me by sight now,” he said. “I certainly know them – we take photographs of offenders with their dogs. I also give them a call now and then to say hello, just so they know they are on my radar.”

First-time offenders can be made to sign an Anti-Social Behaviour Contract – then if they are caught again they can be given an Anti Social Behaviour Order, (ASBO), which, if breached, could land them with two years in prison.

If you have any information relating to suspected hare coursing, contact Pc Marina via Hertfordshire Police’s non-emergency number, 0845 3300 222.