FIVE men caught hare coursing in a field in the Itchen Abbas area in January have been sentenced under new legislation. 

It introduces the new offences of trespass with intent and being equipped for searching for or pursuing hares with dogs.

Following enquiries the men were charged and pleaded guilty in Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court on Thursday August 3.

They are: Leonard Pinnick, 36, of Montgomery Road in Southampton; Shane Jefferies, 27, of Hornbeam Close, Hedge End; Lloyd Jefferies, 35, of Tanhouse Lane, Botley; Martin Tony Buckland, 19, of Hound Road, Netley; and Martin Eli Buckland, 40, also of Hound Road, Netley. 

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Jefferies and Martin Eli Buckland also pleaded guilty to criminal damage and dangerous driving. They were ordered to pay £550 compensation each to the landowner, covering the estimated damage of £1,100 caused to the crops.

Police also arrested a 17-year-old boy, but his outcome is pending a decision by officers and the Youth Offending Team.

Police staff investigator Andrew Williams, from the Country Watch team who conducted the investigation, said: “Hare coursing is a scourge on our rural communities. It involves the senseless persecution of wildlife, whilst also making life miserable for innocent farmers and landowners, who suffer trespass and damage to their property which accompanies this type of offending.

“The Country Watch team take a very robust stance against hare coursing, and will do everything in our power to respond to reports, assist landowners and target the criminals responsible.

“Last year new legislation was introduced which is bolstering the police’s efforts to target hare coursers, bring them to justice and recover costs from them. I hope rural communities can be reassured that we are making the most of this legislation.

“We are coming into autumn now where we see the bulk of annual hare coursing reports. Please remain vigilant, and report any suspicious people or vehicles on private land to police. If a crime is in progress, dial 999.”