1. ITV Report

Hare coursing "rife" in Lincolnshire

A dog chases a Hare to the death across a field in Lincolnshire Photo: YouTube

Police in Lincolnshire say they are still catching hare coursers on a daily basis.

There have been 155 prosecutions since September 2012, and 1200 reported cases over the last year.

Officers launched their special crackdown 'Operation Galileo' last September and say they are bringing more offenders to justice.

One recent incident resulted in around £30,000 worth of betting on dogs for the offenders.

The illegal sport, which involves dogs like lurchers chasing hares to kill them, can mean big money for those behind it.

But for the farmers it's a blight on their land, and one with huge financial implications as they have to devote a lot of time to finding and fending off the coursers.

Police face a common problem - the coursers will say they have been given permission to be on the land to catch rabbits, and witnesses are often reluctant to give evidence.

Sgt Dave Robinson, from Lincolnshire Police, said: "There can be anything from two people to sixteen. They can do it in large groups or small groups. Obviously if you get sixteen people on farmers land then you can understand why they're upset about people being on their land."

Tim Farmer, from Lincolnshire Police, added:"They bet on who's dog's the best basically. We've caught one chap earlier on in the season who said he made thirty thousand from three months work last year, so quite a lot of money."

Mark Leggott farms on the Fens close to Boston, and says he's lost count of the number of times he's been targeted.

He said: "At one stage we were getting three or four gangs everyday of the week. And some Sundays we were under siege virtually, we couldn't leave the farm because from first light to probably 3.30 in the afternoon we were keeping gangs of hare coursers off.

"They threatened to burn our houses down, and one of my farming friends actually had his grain store set alight. There are one or two farmers we know of who are turning a blind eye to the activities or indeed taking money to allow them on, and when the police are called they all say they're just there after rabbits or rats."

"They ruin a lot of these crops. But it's the hassle and the aggrevation of people coming down late on at night, they're lamping throughout the night and are damaging gates, they're damaging dykes, property, everything it's just an absolute nuisance."

Lincolnshire Police now have a dedicated team to tackle the growing problem of Hare coursing Credit: ITV Calendar