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West Ilsley poachers sentenced after rabbit raid

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Five men made to pay more than £2,500 after night raid

A GROUP of poachers who raided a known poaching hot spot at West Ilsley in search of rabbits have been fined more than £2,500 between them.

At West Berkshire Magistrate’s Court on March 31 were the five poachers – Nathan Briggs, aged 24, Sheridan Coomber-Christian, aged 24, Charlie Haverley, aged 22, Tom Jacob, aged 26, all from Slough, and Lucas Owen, aged 29, from Beaconsfield.

Each pleaded guilty to one offence of entering land as a trespasser at night with poaching equipment.

On January 3, at Burydown Lane, West Ilsley, the five men arrived in a Land Rover Defender, driven by Mr Briggs, and came equipped with battery packs, slip leads and a search light.

The men also had eight lurcher dogs with them.

Prosecuting, Helen Waite, said: “It is a rural problem and it is taken very seriously by police even though it’s governed by a very old Act.

“Mr Hall [the land owner] describes that the area on this land is particularly vulnerable to poaching.”

The court heard how, at 11.15pm that night, Mr Hall saw a vehicle with a bright searchlight attached to it driving slowly and carefully in the area.

Miss Waite said: “He knew what he was seeing. He is experienced in these matters.”

Mr Hall then called the police who sent out a helicopter to search the area.

Miss Waite said that calling out the helicopter was a measure of “how seriously they take this offence”.

The police officers attended and they stopped the vehicle.

Miss Waite added: “When they were stopped, Mr Briggs said to the police ‘we were just doing a bit of coursing, officer’, so an admission was made of sorts and the five were arrested.

“All five of them maintained their right to silence at interview.

“We can consider a disqualification as driving was used.

“I do know of colleagues in Oxford who have imposed very draconian sentences for hare coursing.”

She said that, in some instances, a countywide ban had been imposed for poachers, permitting them to enter the county of Oxfordshire only for transit.

Defending himself, Mr Jacob said: “Losing my licence would affect me. I have two young children

“I didn’t realise how serious it was. We were just out hunting rabbits. I have learnt my lesson and it won’t happen again.”

Mr Owen said: “I am sorry for what I have done. We didn’t realise what we were getting into.

“We were just trying to get a bunch of rabbits and if I lost my licence it would affect me in a huge way.”

On sentencing the five men, presiding magistrate Phillip Taylor spared each any driving disqualifications.

He told them: “This is a very serious matter that the court takes very seriously.

“In terms of the level of remorse you have shown we have decided not to disqualify you from driving.”

Each were given a fine of £400 for their part, and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £40 and costs of £85, totalling £525 for each of them.

A destruction order was also made for the poaching equipment.

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