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Colin Morell (51) and Simon Jones (30) from Stoke-on Trent appeared before Loughborough Magistrates Court after admitting hare coursing at Langham in Rutland. Morrell was fined £65 and had to pay £20 costs and a victim surcharge of £15. Jones was given a 6 months conditional discharge and had to pay £20 costs. The maximum fine available to magistrates for offences under the Hunting Act 2004 is £5000.

Richard Hazlet, East Midlands regional director of the National Farmers’ Union said: “The magistrates seem rather gullible. Here was a case of two men who came to Rutland to poach, admitted what they were doing, with one of them saying he had been doing it for years. To fine someone £65 for hare coursing is laughable”. He went on to say that “lenient” sentences would attract more poachers to the area and that the magistrates “see it as a romantic crime- the reality is markedly different”. Farmer Mark Leggott, who farms near Boston, Lincolnshire where there were 700 hare coursing incidents last year said magistrates there imposed harsh penalties for those caught. He said “Magistrates hand out much stiffer penalties because they know the effect on the area”.

Margaret Bowlers, chair of the Loughborough, Melton, Belvoir and Rutland magistrates bench said: “Whilst I cannot comment on individual cases, I can say that it is incorrect to suggest that magistrates view hare coursing as a ‘romantic crime’.”

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