A group of hare coursers have been fined and had their dogs confiscated after police used night-vision goggles to catch the criminals when they hid in a hedgerow on private land.
Officers used the high-tech equipment in the dead of night to spot two men with Lurcher-type dogs on the land in Sharrington, near Melton Constable, Norfolk.
A silver Citroen car with a dead hare inside was also discovered when police were called out at about 11.30pm on 16 September 2020.
Two men in their 30s, a man in his 20s and a teenage boy voluntarily attended Aylsham Police Investigation Centre, where they were questioned.
William Mitchell, 36, of Mangreen Lane in Keswick, near Norwich; Michael Travell, 35, of Beverley Road, Norwich; and George Harber, 23, of Shorthorn Road, Stratton Strawless, were then reported for hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
The hare coursers have finally had their day in court after the coronavirus pandemic caused a backlog in cases.
They appeared before Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 12 May and pleaded guilty to one count of hunting a wild mammal with dogs.
The three men were each fined £500 and ordered to pay £145 costs, and a victim surcharge of £50.
They were also given criminal behaviour orders for three years. A confiscation order was also made for three dogs, which will now be rehomed.
The teenage boy was told no further action would be taken against him.
PC Chris Shelley, Norfolk Police’s rural crime officer, said: “Hare coursing has a terrible effect on our rural communities – it damages property, threatens people’s livelihoods and subjects people and families to fear and intimidation.
“It’s an issue we take very seriously and we will hold those responsible to account in order to prevent this happening in Norfolk. If you witness this crime in action or have information about illegal hare coursing, please share this with us so we can work together to catch those responsible.”