Landowner Found Guilty Of Hare Coursing

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
(London, Wednesday 10 December 2008) - A Norfolk landowner has been convicted under the Hunting Act 2004 of allowing her property to be used for hare coursing during two organised events, following a prosecution based on footage taken by animal welfare groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and brought by the RSPCA.
Mary Birbeck (d.o.b 13.9.31), of Little Massingham House, was found guilty yesterday of permitting land at Little Massingham to be used for hare coursing on 12 November 2007, and 8 January 2008, at King’s Lynn Magistrates Court.

She was also convicted of two offences of knowingly facilitating hare coursing and two of attending a hare coursing event, after a two day trial.

Les Anderson (d.o.b 22.9.28), of Lodge Road, Feltwell, was also convicted of two charges of attending a hare coursing event and two of knowingly facilitating such an event. Anderson is chairman of the Kimberly and Wymondham Greyhound Club, which organised the two events at Little Massingham.

District judge Philip Browning said the pair had made attempts to carry out what they described as ‘field trials’ – where greyhounds ‘push’ hares into the path of waiting gunmen. However he said the reality of what took place was essentially hare coursing.

He said: “In my judgement, the activities of both dogs and hares are indistinguishable from hare coursing. The dogs are supposed to be judged on different criteria but the activity is the same. The dogs are trying to catch the hares and the hares are trying to escape.”

Birbeck and Anderson admitted the organised meetings had taken place at Little Massingham, but described them as ‘field trials’ where the dogs were muzzled. They denied they were hare coursing.

Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK, said: "We welcome the verdict as a victory for the hunted animal. This is highly significant as it is the first time a landowner has been prosecuted under the Hunting Act 2004. This should send a clear message to all landowners who allow hare coursing, fox hunting or deer hunting to take place on their property: if your land is used for illegal hunting you run the risk of ending up in Court."

The case was brought by the RSPCA using evidence gathered by its own inspectors, as well as video footage taken by monitors for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the League Against Cruel Sports.

IFAW hunt monitor Kevin Hill said: “This case demonstrates that animal welfare groups are working together effectively to document evidence of illegal hunting, and that monitors’ footage has an important role to play in upholding the laws that protect our wildlife from needless cruelty and suffering.”

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