Posts Tagged ‘Police’

There’s always a recurring theme to many of the questions we get asked both in person and on social media with regards to hunting with hounds. When people finally realise that hunting still goes on largely as it did before the ban they then ask why the police don’t arrest those who are responsible. I’m going to cover what I believe are the 6 main reasons for their lack of action on this issue and hopefully this will also go some way in helping to understand the actions we, as activists take in response to that.

1 – Funding.

Police forces are facing huge challenges in funding their activities and some are desperately trying to juggle their needs and that of public opinion. Our local force is probably the most underfunded in the country and I believe also rated one of the worse in performance. The problem they have is that’s it’s a largely rural county with a couple of large urban conurbations which are, as one officers said off record, “terrorist central”. Clearly the policing of these areas will always take precedence along with the bulk of the funding and this can be construed as neglecting the wider issues in the countryside by the general public. Locally up to a couple of years ago we didn’t even have a dedicated team for rural policing but now this has been resolved and I guess it at least says something that we have a dedicated officer who acts as liaison for our group and a conduit for the transfer of information.

While not all counties will be the same I have no doubt that the majority of funding for police operations will go elsewhere and the whole hunting issue is well down the list of importance.

2 – How the police work.

One of the main points to understand is how the police work and this will explain their actions, or of course the lack of.

Think of the police force as a large company. The product they sell is convictions. The more convictions they achieve the better it will look on their books and the more funding they will receive from Government. Unsolved crimes will go against them. Ultimately the police want to spend the money allocated to them in the most cost effective way possible and achieve the most convictions. If they perceive an illegal activity not worthy of spending time and money on with an investigation due to the poor conviction rate then they simply won’t bother. You’ll often hear the police and CPS in particular say; “it’s not in the public interest”.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that they think the public aren’t interested in them prosecuting but the cost of that investigation will outweigh the chance of a successful outcome. This will affect many minor crimes and not just those in relation to the Hunting Act.

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Waste of police resources?

3 – Resource Allocation.

This also relates to point 1 however it’s worth noting as a separate point. We’ve spoken to officers attending hunts who’ve said; “We can’t stay here long there’s a football match we have to police”. Sporting events like football matches obviously take a lot of policing and clubs pay for some of this (inside the stadiums) so it makes sense to take resources from one area to fill another with a greater need and also one which is likely to put something at least back into the financial pot. Although I use the football match analogy there are likely to be many other instances where priority over hunting will take place. In the grand scheme of things hunting is well down the pecking order in the level of priority.

4 – The Legislation.

I think it’s fairly well accepted by everyone on both sides that the Hunting Act isn’t fit for purpose. It has many glaring loop holes, some so big you could drive a horse box through them. Obviously this is no cause for any repeal like the so-called Countryside Alliance and their chief fibber dim Tim Bonner continually bang on about as some very straight forward changes could make the act a very successful and workable piece of legislation. I’ll cover this in more detail in another blog post to come.

Because the Hunting Act is convoluted and written with the law breakers in mind it becomes very difficult for the police to take it seriously and therefore not waste their time and effort in trying to police it. Once again this relates to all the other points of funding, allocating resources and how the police work. Only last Saturday while on operations against the Puckeridge Hunt in Hertfordshire (Tim Bonner’s home hunt) I spoke to the Sergeant in charge of policing on that day and his words were quite revealing.

“We know what the hunt get up to, they don’t fool us any more than they do you but there’s virtually no chance of prosecuting them. We even have to use much older legislation (the Game Act 1831) against the hare coursers we have that come to the county as it’s a better way of prosecuting them than using the Hunting Act”.

This statement speaks volumes.

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A hunter gets narky at plod for not arresting those nasty antis.

5 – Lack of knowledge within the police force, particularly officers attending hunts.

There simply isn’t enough officers which understand the act and are able to make rational decisions from what they witness when attending hunts. Decent wildlife crime officers are in very short supply. We’ve actually worked with some pretty decent officers, some are dedicated and really want to prosecute those who abuse our wildlife but on the whole officers attending hunts have virtually no idea of what they are doing. This is why when they attend they will say they are only there to maintain public order, its what they know and how to deal with.

A couple of weeks ago I was once again speaking to an officer attending a hunt. I showed him evidence of several foxes being flushed by the hunt on my video camera. He made a call to someone obviously more senior for some advice and the response was that as no foxes had been killed then no crime had taken place! This is clearly nonsense and I explained to the officer present that all you need to do is prove the intent to hunt a live mammal, no kill has to take place. The glaringly obvious evidence to back up the intent of the hunt was the presence of masked terrier men (those fence menders the CA like to talk about) with spades and terriers in boxes. There is of course no legitimate reason for these to be on a genuine trail hunt. But then again there’s no such thing as a legitimate trail hunt.

Too many officers will arrive at a hunt and make a snap decision based on their perception (and prejudice) of the people who are there. Who will they believe, a bunch of posh people dressed smartly on horseback or a bunch of sabs who are probably covered in mud and sweating from running around the countryside all day?

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Only interested in protecting the Atherstone Hunt

6 – Corruption.

Good old corruption. The old boys (or girls) club looking after their own. Make no mistake there are a large number of officers and judiciary who hunt. We expose these when we can to make it as difficult for them to influence things as possible (stay tuned for later blog posts as I’ve got an absolute peach of one coming up soon) but irrespective of their claims of impartiality corruption does take place.

The bias shown by some forces and officers can only lead us to draw the simple conclusion that officers on the coal face are either bias themselves or have been instructed to act in a certain manner when dealing with hunts and those who stand against them. I’ve seen officers look the other way while a fox has been chased between police cars with the hounds in pursuit. We’ve seen helicopters deployed to monitor sabs that would have cost the tax payer thousands of pounds. West Mids Hunt Sabs gained audio recordings of officers advising the Atherstone Hunt on which laws to use against sabs and monitors. The CA have ex senior officers manipulating police policy where they can. I’ve written on the subject before and will of course continue to do so. Where there is power there will be corruption and I believe it to exist at all levels within the police force.

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PC Sharon Roscoe & Inspector Lou Cordiner at the Belvoir Hunt Ball

We’ve worked with many that are genuine and honest, lots will even privately tell you that they support what we do and wish us the best, but the fact remains no matter how much progress we make (and that’s been considerable) with regard to police relations there remains an issue which needs to be resolved.

Something a little different for this blog post.

Becoming involved in the protection of wildlife through direct action can be a big step. I remember my first sab quite clearly and well, the rest as they say is history but I thought it may be interesting to get a newbies perspective after their first year on the front line against the hunters. So here it is, over to Titch . . .

I write this guest piece for MoreThanJustBadgers to mark a personal anniversary. Last Saturday was a year to the day since I first sabbed a fox hunt with my local group.
Before then, I was sat comfortably in my bubble of naivety. I had voted in the general election of 2001 guided by the prospect of a Hunting Act, having seen it pass into law I had thought that was that. Not until the Hunt Saboteurs Association managed to get into my twitter feed at the end of 2016, did I realise any differently.

Within a fortnight I was joining up with associates in the cause of animal welfare, learning the ways and language of the hunt, as well as the real reason for keeping your distance from heavily set, self-appointed, amateur ‘stewards’ (I’d have written something far less polite – Ed).

Over this past year I have been privileged to have campaigned and taken part in direct action against fox hunts, mink hunts, wild bird shoots and badger culling. I’ve witnessed untold numbers of animals escape with their freedom under the watch of sabs, and I have also sadly seen the deaths of some unfortunate creatures too. I’ve worked with people from the length and breadth of the UK, as well as activists from Europe too.

I learned that being vegan alone was not enough. Simply not taking part, allows horrors to be committed against animals week in week out. Compassionate and thoughtful people are needed to take a stand, to prevent what acts of cruelty they can, and to shine a light on what they can’t.

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The sun sets on another successful sab.

During the year I have been punched, kicked, threatened with weapons, driven at by quads and various 4×4’s, informed that I am going to be arrested, beaten up or even killed. I’ve seen friends beaten, bloodied, whipped and even arrested. I’ve spent time in muddy fields and wading streams, as well as in police interview rooms giving statements. Hunt sabbing has been exhilarating, as well as at times dangerous, but ultimately always rewarding and worthwhile.

The one constant throughout my first year of activism has been the unwavering attitudes of hunters. Every week they assemble, 11am sharp wearing the same dated outfits and following the same tired routines. They profess to be continuing their tradition, but in reality this is a rut. An endless cycle of pretence and theatrics constructed to deny the advance of time and sensibility. The same tired clichés are heard, “we’re hunting within the law, you antis spray hounds with acid and pull children off horses”, and so on. After attending a shade under 40 hunts in my first year, I have not once witnessed a trail being laid.

Policing has been variable at best. With some notable exceptions, most police officers have been content to turn their back on any reports of illegality by organised hunts, in favour of preserving public order. Of course, from a police officer’s point of view, thirty smartly dressed people riding horses in a field is perfectly good ‘public order’. Hunt sabs turning up and making a scene immediately brings that precious public order into question and on go the blue lights.

Will I still be sabbing this time next year? Almost certainly so. In five years? It’s certainly a possibility given the speed of change this country. Any further that that only time, and the House of Commons and future governments, will tell . . .

The Countryside Alliance and particularly their Chief Executive Tim Bonner have been banging on about sabs & monitors covering their faces for as long as I can remember. I first commented on the subject here. It’s certainly something which has got under their skin to the point of obsession so when the laws regarding face covering were modified recently they once again shouted from the roof tops to anyone who was listening that they’d gained some sort of victory.

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Oakley Hunt Terrier Men.

Their headline of “New power to remove face coverings from violent protesters comes into effect today” suggests a radical change in police powers however the modification to the Section 60AA legislation is only minor and certainly won’t change anything from the point of view of those who wish to remain anonymous from the CA and their intelligence gatherers. Previously for a Section 60AA to be used it had to be requested and then authorised from an officer of Inspector rank or above and the relevant paperwork signed before it could be enforced. Now this order can be given orally by the senior officer at the request of officers on the ground.

It’s not hard to understand why the CA want to know the identities of those who stand against them. They hold files on all sorts of people from monitors to sabs and LACS employees. This is so, should the need arise they can try to discredit, undermine or even use this information for more sinister purposes by passing it on to the hunts and their thugs which the activists operate against. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had my photo taken by hunters and their supporters. They are clearly under instruction to do so at every opportunity and these will be passed on to the CA so a database of their activities can be built up over time. I imagine my own file is fairly large.

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Masked hunt supporter taking my photo (again).

So, what is the reality of the situation?

Well, nothing really changes. You’ll note in the headline the words “violent protesters”. The police can’t simply turn up at a hunt and demand all those wearing face masks remove them, they still have to justify this order in the same way as previously and simply wearing a face covering isn’t justification. Of course the CA and Bonner like to claim that sabs are violent protesters but the truth of the matter is the complete opposite.

Firstly sabs are not protesters. They are there to stop hunts from illegally killing mammals in direct contravention of the Hunting with Dogs Act. The hunts themselves are more accurately described as the ones protesting as they are openly flouting a law that they disagree with. Secondly sabs are non-violent. They gain nothing from acting in a manner which would detract from their main purpose and in all likelihood lose them the support of the general public. Of course we’re fully entitled to protect ourselves from violent assaults and will do so but it simply isn’t in our interests to act like thugs, we leave that to the hunting fraternity.

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More hunt thugs

Speaking of which we can now look forward to all the hunt thugs and terrier men being unmasked but notice how the CA and Bonner deny all knowledge of the existence of these people? The silence from Bonner et al regarding all the violence from the hunting side which made the national media several times this past season speaks volumes. The hypocrisy involved here really is astounding. In Bonner’s recent statement he says;

There are only two reasons for wearing masks and face-coverings in the context of a protest: to intimidate and harass, and to hide identity with the intention of committing criminal offences and avoiding prosecution”.

Now remember that sabs aren’t the ones protesting and apply what he says to the pro hunting side. I find it highly amusing the CA are attempting to hold the moral high ground here and even when they put together a short video on Twitter which is alleged to show sab violence they can’t really come up with anything substantive. I can say without doubt that any of the sab groups across the country could come up with hours upon hours of footage of hunters, supporter and “stewards” acting violently towards people and property. It is, quite frankly, laughable. Bonner can harp on all he likes, the reality is that perhaps now we’ll get more convictions against the terrier men and the violent thugs the hunts employ and if the police try and apply the rules in a hunt situation it will apply to all concerned and not just from one side.

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Tim Bonner, wearing a face covering while watching a hunt.

The tweet below sums up Bonner & the CA perfectly so I’ll finish with that. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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So, I’m sitting here at my desk at work, it’s Thursday the 22nd and the office is half empty. Anyone with any sense and holiday remaining has either buggered off to do the last of their Christmas shopping or even better stayed in and avoided the crowds. I’ve just finished my last job, the deadline has been met so I’m not going to start anything new. This of course give me time to reflect on the year and of course plan for Boxing Day, the biggest day in the hunting calendar.

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Looking back it would seem not a lot has changed, the Government are still ignoring the science of killing thousands of badgers for no reason at all other than the NFU want it and Defra are fudging the figures in order to claim success. Their success of course has nothing to do with the reduction of TB but just the numbers of badgers killed. They even had to massage the kill numbers down only a couple of weeks before the end of the culls as they knew they wouldn’t hit their own minimum targets. They’ve also stated that farmers will be able to continue killing and create badger free zones around beef and dairy farms. This wildlife eradication program could cause the local extinctions of the species which have been there for thousands of years and will have zero effect on TB rates, but then we all know this has nothing to do with TB. The small numbers who went out there and challenged this did an amazing job in keeping the numbers killed down as low as Defra claimed although to be honest with you I wouldn’t believe anything they published.

Hunts are still hunting illegally.

The change I’ve seen personally and from updates around the country is now they seem to feel even more immune from prosecution and pay only minor lip service to covering their own arses in the form of laying trails (or appearing to). The Government will probably try and sneak through a free vote on the repeal of the Hunting Act in the new year just to fulfil their manifesto pledge however even the most staunch supporter of hunting will recognise there’s very little chance of success. Maybe this is why the hunts are getting more blatant? One can hope that with the failure of a repeal the legislation can be changed, Scotland has just gone through a review and with public pressure perhaps something similar can happen here? Of course while we have loathsome Leadsome as Environment Secretary there would seem to be little chance of that but we can live in hope.

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Speaking of public pressure it’s been heartening to seem what the general public can achieve when they put their minds to it and shown the right course of action. PCC’s and police forces are coming under increased scrutiny regarding the policing of hunts and we are starting to see some positive results. Hunting officers have been outed and their actions called into question (see here and here). The problem however still remains a large one but steps are being made in the right direction and with the use of social media the pressure will always be on the police to be seen to be upholding the laws of the land regardless of the crime.

Speaking of crimes the Fitzwillaim hunt should have been in court by now. The original date for the proceedings was supposed to be the 5th December however further pre-trial hearings were required and now I shall have to wait until April for my day in court. The offence took place almost a year ago now and the time it’s taken is somewhat frustrating however it’s still a major achievement just getting these animal abusers to court regardless of the outcome. I have no doubt they are guilty but as you probably know proving intent can be very difficult indeed. I’ll be sure to update you when the time comes.

As usual I’ll be out on Boxing Day and chucking some sab sized spanners in one of our local hunts attempts at killing foxes. Behind all that pomp and ceremony there is a truly insidious side, something the Countryside Alliance will attempt to hide with a concerted PR campaign. You’ll no doubt see plenty of articles in the media claiming hunting is alive and well with thousands turning out to support the Boxing Day tradition. The simple fact is most of those turning out on Boxing Day won’t see a hunt on any other day. The turn outs we see every week throughout the season are without doubt dropping. Hunts like the Atherston (thanks to great work from West Mids Hunt Sabs) are literally on their knees. the Puckeridge (Tim Boneheads hunt) would appear to have only £767 in the bank and I have no doubt many others are suffering similarly. If you fancy walking off some of the Christmas dinner why not pop along to your local hunt and voice your displeasure. The details can be found here.

Well that’s about it from me. Have a good break and thanks for tagging along.

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