writes Katy Griffin.

FOUR men who were seen by police throwing a hare from a vehicle window have been fined for poaching.

Freddie Hughes, 24, of Lloyd Avenue, Marchwood, Albert Kempster, 25, of Greenfields Way, Weston-Super Mare, James Kempster, 33, and Albert Smith 53, both of Marchwood Road, Totton, appeared in Salisbury Magistrates' Court on Friday (February 7).

The court heard that the defendants trespassed on land at Manor Farm in Berwick St James and were seen by a farm worker on Christmas Eve last year.

At 12.15pm on December 24, police received a report of a suspicious vehicle and dogs on farm land. Officers stopped the vehicle which had two dogs inside. They saw a hare thrown out of a passenger window onto the verge.

All four men were arrested and the vehicle and dogs were seized.

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At the hearing, all four defendants admitted the offence.

Barry Keel, defending Albert Kempster and Albert Smith, said: "My two clients accept it was juvenile behaviour on their part."

He said for Albert Kempster the seizure of the dog had caused tensions in his relationship with his family.

Rika McMonnies, defending James Kempster and Freddie Hughes, said the night's events had not been planned, adding: "They have displayed in court that they display juvenile behaviour when they are together which is not always a good idea."

She said the loss of James Kempster's dog had caused him "great suffering" and that he had told her he would rather go to prison than lose the dog.

The four men were ordered to pay a fine of £120 as well as additional costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £32.

Sergeant Tom Ellerby said: “We aim to provide a prompt and robust service to the rural community, and always look out for any opportunity to disrupt as we did in this case.

“On the day in question, officers flooded the area and caught these four people in the act. One officer located the dead hare that they had been seen to throw from the window, another officer seized their cars, and another seized their dogs, before the rest of the team arrested all four men.

“This was an intelligence-led operation and landowners and farmers played an essential role in making us aware that activity was taking place. I’d urge anyone who sees anything out of place in our rural communities to try and make note of any vehicle registration numbers and report concerns to us immediately.”