Dorset Police has taken part in a multi force operation aimed at deterring people from poaching.

Operation Galileo is a national operation and one of its main priorities is to tackle hare coursing – an illegal activity that is linked to organised crime.

Officers from Dorset Police's Rural Crime Team took part in coordination with Hampshire and Wiltshire Police.

The aim was to show a united front in dealing with the issue and to act as a deterrent to criminals.

Speaking as officers went out on Thursday night, Sergeant Natalie Skinner of Dorset Police’s Rural Crime Team said: “What we are aiming to do is disrupt any poaching incidents that come in and look out for any suspect vehicles in areas down farm tracks and the like.

“If we believe they have been involved in poaching offences then we have powers to stop and search them to see if they have anything on them.”

Whilst poaching takes many forms, it is hare coursing that is the priority for Sergeant Skinner and her team.  

The crime is associated with many other criminal activities which has a real impact on rural communities.

She added: ”It tends to be young men who take up the activity with a dog, quite often walking in fields without permission, and the belief is that they are (involved in) hare coursing.

“It is the amount of damage they do to the farmers and it makes them feel very vulnerable; previously we have seen violence towards farmers, but thankfully not in recent years.

"It's harming our community, and our food chain.

"If they take out a whole field of crops that has an impact – quite often they damage gates and padlocks to get in, it's that damage to the community and farmers, that is why we go out."

Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, was also in attendance during the operation and was pleased to see the Rural Crime Team able to play a bigger role in this operation. 

In total, 20 vehicles were stopped and checked, with two drivers receiving a traffic offence report. One for no insurance and the other for a dangerous load.

Nine intelligence logs were also submitted.

Mr Sidwick said: "I am very pleased we are able to play our part in a way we weren’t a few years ago.

"That is because the Rural Crime Team has increased from three to over 18, and they are able to take the fight to organised crime, which is what this is in many cases.

"For example, hare coursing, the sport has been photographed and streamed on a computer - that is gambling - that’s actually organised crime.

"When we look at poaching, Dorset has a good record, but we need to do more. It is not just the issue about animals being taken, but there have been some real instances of animal cruelty on a level that is unpalatable – it is not somebody taking an animal for dinner – it is not a good thing."