Hare coursers by day, deer poachers by night: the battle to catch the culprits continues

This report was filmed by ITV News Anglia in early 2020 before covid restrictions and contains images some viewers might find distressing

  • Watch this report by ITV Anglia's Hannah Pettifer

This is our second story in a series looking at the impact hare coursing is having on rural communities here in the east.

The fight against hare coursing continues into the night and is putting other animals in the firing line.

The dark does not stop the coursers who use high-powered lamps to find the animals. This is a process which is known as lamping.

Hare coursers by day are becoming deer poachers by night as Suffolk is home to some of the largest red deer in Britain.

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For the police, night time surveillance works much the same as during the day.

Deer poachers have been known to travel to Suffolk from all areas of the country. Last year, Suffolk police managed to intercept a gang from Yorkshire.

Similar to hare coursing, dogs are bred specifically for the attacks.

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The poachers' tactics leave the deer with little chance - lamping almost hypnotises the animals, bringing them to a standstill, vehicles are then used to separate one from the herd, a dog is then thrown out to make the kill.

Police are finding the purpose of deer poaching is usually for entertainment and no longer for the meat.

In the last 18 months, despite more than 200 reports, Suffolk police gained six convictions.

Just days after filming with Suffolk police in February last year, a man was found guilty of trespass in pursuit of game near Eye.

Four people gave evidence against him at Ipswich magistrates court - he was convicted and fined nearly £1500.

Suffolk police openly admit that getting a conviction for hare coursing because witnesses are reluctant to come forward, but even in this case where a conviction is secured they say a deterrent is not there.

The fines set by the sentencing guidelines they say are not enough to prevent this type of offence from happening again.

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But most fines still remain modest as judges need to take into account a defendant's income and their ability to pay the fine.

As much as the police do to prevent coursing and poaching, they know they're facing an almost impossible task.

Sergeant Calver admits the very nature of the offenders, means little will deter them which puts not just the animals' welfare at risk but also the public.