Organised crime gangs streaming hare coursing to Chinese betting syndicates, warns shadow environment secretary

Organised crime gangs are “preying on rural communities” by live streaming hare coursing to betting syndicates in China, among other offences, a senior politician has said.

Stock photo of a hare. Photo: JPI Media

Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard said tackling rural crime was one of the key issues he expected to be raised in Labour’s rural policy review, which was launched earlier this month.

And he said these were not low level crimes with little impact.

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“We know that rural communities have seen the real brunt of the cut to police numbers since 2010,” Mr Pollard said.

“And we know that it takes a very long time for an emergency response, not because the police aren't working hard enough, simply because there's not enough of them and the geographies they have to cover are so big.”

“It's really increased the fear around rural crime,” he said.

“And we know that there are criminal gangs preying on rural communities, not just in terms of county lines, but also in terms of the threats to people living in rural communities.”

Mr Pollard said he had been told that gangs had told those in rural communities that they knew their crimes would not be reported, or if they were, that they would not get caught.

“It's also incredibly profitable work, and there is big money involved with this hare coursing, for instance, I was hearing about how it's webcast live to betting syndicates in China.

“So we're not talking about some people organising an illicit activity in a barn somewhere, we're talking about highly organised criminals preying on rural communities.”

It comes after both the NFU and the Countryside Alliance called on candidates for police and crime commissioner elections across the country this week to put rural policing at the forefront of their agenda.

Launching their PCC manifesto exclusively with The Yorkshire Post at the time, the Countryside Alliance’s chief executive Tim Bonner said: “The real danger is rural policing gets locked into a cycle of decline because the perception is the police are not taking it seriously.”

And he added: “The theft of a tractor is just as relevant as someone’s factory being trashed in a town.

“These are often serious, organised criminals and they are prepared to commit violent acts.”

Mr Pollard said: “Part of the challenge I think, at the heart of it, is to look at rural life the way it actually is now, not through picture postcards, or our romantic views of rural life in the past but, what's it like today.”

He added: “There's such pride in our countryside from the people who live there, but there are problems that need addressing. This rural review is Labour saying, we recognise that we haven't always turned up recently. That is changing.”