Press and Journal

Aberdeen man given first custodial sentence in Scotland for hare coursing

Hare coursing

Three Aberdeen men have been found guilty of hare coursing, with one receiving a custodial sentence, after DNA evidence helped secure their conviction.

Colin Stewart, 31, was given a custodial sentence of 135 days (89 days still to serve) and disqualified from having the custody of any dog for one year, while Mark Stewart, 26, was given a one year supervision order and disqualification of custody of any dog for a year.

Raymond Higgins, 45, was fined £400 after all three were found to be using dogs to hunt hares near Kirriemuir, Angus, in March of this year.

Wtinesses reported the hare-coursing to police, providing detailed descriptions of the men and the vehicle used.

All three were arrested and their three dogs were photographed and swabs taken for DNA analysis.

A post mortem by SAC Consulting: veterinary services confirmed the hare had died from injuries caused by a large predator, later identified to be one of the dogs.

Mobile phones and a video camera were seized during the investigation and found to contain footage of the men posing with dead hares.

Detective Chief Superintendent Sean Scott, of Police Scotland’s Specialist Crime Division, said: “This is an excellent example of partnership working to secure a conviction.

“The public have also played a major part in this investigation by providing such detailed descriptions and accounts of the incident.

“Police Scotland is committed to tackling wildlife crime and our detection rates are increasing.

“Investigating wildlife crime can be difficult because of the nature of the crimes and the terrain where crimes occur.

“Hare coursing where dogs chase the animal, is a particularly violent crime.

“Public awareness is crucial in helping us tackle crimes like poaching and hare coursing. And working with partners we will continue to bring those who commit wildlife crime to justice.”

Dr Lucy Webster, Wildlife DNA Forensics, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) said: “This case demonstrates the power of animal DNA in wildlife crime investigation.

“A dog DNA profile recovered from the hare carcass is a match to one of the dependents’ dogs – providing very strong evidence to link these men to this specific hare coursing incident.”