FIVE men have been arrested on suspicion of serious offences, after a report of suspected poaching activity triggered a major police response.

At about 2.15pm on January 25, 2020, a farmer near Drax called North Yorkshire Police to report men with dogs and a 4×4 driving over their fields. At one point the 4×4 was driven at the farmer’s own vehicle, causing him to take evasive action, the force said.

Considerable damage was caused to fields and crops, including a newly planted rape field and about 15ft of hedge, the force added.

Police units, including the NPAS police helicopter, deployed to the area immediately, and the 4×4 drove off. At 3.30pm it was spotted by officers on the A1(M) southbound near Barnsdale Bar, in South Yorkshire, and eventually stopped at Marr.

North Yorkshire Police has confirmed that five men were arrested on suspicion of affray and criminal damage. They are aged between 27 and 49, and are from the Gloucestershire, Somerset and Bristol areas. They have been released under investigation while police inquiries into the incident continue.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee they were in was seized as it was untaxed. Four dogs inside were taken to a kennels to be looked after.

A spokesperson for North Yorkshire Police said: “Driving over farmland can cause major damage to crops, resulting in significant financial losses for farmers. This is often linked to illegal poaching. Any such reports will be treated extremely seriously.

“As part of a police operation called Galileo, we work with forces nationally to ensure poaching is tackled in a co-ordinated way, by sharing information and working across force boundaries.

“Many offenders travel long distances to North Yorkshire to carry out poaching offences, and are frequently from other force areas.”

Residents are encouraged to note down and report any suspicious activity, such as unusual vehicle movements, particularly in remote, rural areas. Even if the information doesn’t lead to an immediate response, every piece of intelligence helps the police build up a picture and could prove vital in bring criminals to justice. Phone North Yorkshire Police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.