Hare coursers will face prison and the police will be given more power to tackle offenders in new legislation published by the government.

The government set out new measures on Tuesday that include increasing penalties for hare coursers.

It introduces new criminal offences and creates new powers for the courts to disqualify convicted offenders from owning or keeping dogs.

The new legislation includes an order to reimburse the costs incurred when dogs are seized in kennels.

The numbers of brown hares across the UK are declining and their population is now estimated at less than half a million in England.

They are listed as a priority in the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan as they face a range of threats, including poaching and habitat loss.

Hare coursing is an illegal activity in which dogs are used to chase, catch and kill hares.

Coursers often cause damage to gates and crops and threaten farmers with violence.

It proposes two new criminal offences: trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare and being equipped to trespass with the intention of using a dog to search for or pursue a hare.

The new proposals include increasing unlimited fines and up to six months in prison.

Both will be punishable on conviction by an unlimited fine and/or up to six months’ imprisonment.

Police will have the costs of kennelling dogs seized in connection with hare coursing offences reimbursed and offenders can be banned from owning or keeping a dog.