Posts Tagged ‘West Mercia Police’

I’ve been kinda lazy recently in the writing department but if you’re a regular reader you’d have guessed that already. I’ve been kinda busy at work and I’d also had a week away on holiday north of the border which was nice as for once the weather up there was a lot better than down south, plus I got climb a mountain which isn’t something you get to do very often.

While I was away the case of the South Herefordshire Hunt fox cub killers finally reached it’s conclusion. Here was a case that had been dragging on as long as my own one against the Fitzwilliam but for very different reasons. The Hunt Investigation Team had secured some very damning evidence against the accused and it did finally get to court although it has now come to light that the reasons behind the delays were insidious to say the least.

There was a concerted effort by some individuals within West Mercia Police to make sure those responsible for the heinous crimes against those fox cubs would never see the inside of a court room. Follow this link for a personal account by Jane Barradale-Smith who is the wife of the officer who received the bodies of the dead foxes.

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The highly questionable warrant issued to search premises

The case was very widely reported in the national press and TV with the main focus not just on the convictions but the totally laughable sentences handed out with probably the best article in the Independent. It’s a sad indictment of our legal system that the people responsible avoided a custodial sentence and were in fact not even banned from keeping animals in the future. This is no deterrent at all and another reason in a long list that we need a complete overhaul of sentencing options for hunting and animal cruelty offences along with judges who are prepared to give the maximum sentences where appropriate.

The so-called Countryside Alliance had kept very tight lipped over the whole affair but once the guilty verdicts was announced they were forced into making a statement and it was predictable to say the least.

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This is of course a load of unmitigated clap trap. Dim Bonner knows full well this isn’t a case of “Bad Apples”, as far as he’s concerned (and no doubt many other hunts around the country) the stupidity he’s referring to is simply that they got caught. This kind of thing is nothing new. Hunts have always historically provided foxes to be hunted and have no doubt been involved in similar activities to the SHH since hunting with hounds began. Lets not forget the Belvoir Hunt had a fox kept in an outbuilding ready to be hunted, a member to the Fitzwilliam was convicted of keeping a fox in a barrel  and last NYD the Kimblewick were filmed dragging a fox from a false earth and throwing it in front of the hounds (which we’ve heard nothing from Thames Valley Police about since).

Speaking of bad apples, below is the statement from a the This is Hunting UK  facebook page.

Statement

Pfft, “untypical” my arse. It’s all very well and good claiming they have nothing to hide but kennel open days are nothing more than promotional stunts designed to encourage more people to come hunting and they certainly won’t get to see what really goes on behind the scenes. If they really want to be open about what they do just publish the meets along with trail maps so we can all go along and watch them follow these mythical trails. Maybe we can ride with a terrier man and ask him what the terriers are for if the hunt is genuinely following a trail and do they really get that much dust up their noses while mending fences that they need to keep their faces covered. And we haven’t even mentioned “Autumn Hunting” (cubbing) yet.

Nothing whatsoever to hide?

What an absolute load of bollox.

SHH images courtesy of HIT.

It never ceases to amaze me the levels to which a certain sector of our society will stoop in an effort to continue with what they see are their right to hunt regardless of the law. It really shouldn’t surprise me I guess, I’m long enough in the tooth now to know a little of the mind-set of these people but I guess their ideals are so alien to my own and people like me that I’ll never accept even a tiny bit of it.

Once again there was an operation organised by several sab groups against another illegal mink hunt, this time our target was the Three Counties Mink Hounds however as it turned out we got two for the price of one with a joint meet including the Teme Valley Minks Hounds from which I’m sure you’ll remember the large expense incurred by West Mercia Police for the helicopter and multiple ground units. It was also the same day a sab was threatened with a knife.

Irony overload

Irony overload

Once again the police turned out in force (this time it was Warwickshire), complete with riot van, two separate dog units, multiple cars and even the helicopter made an appearance although only stayed for a mere 15 minutes or so. The big guy who threatened the sab with the knife was once again in attendance (wearing the same clothes – I wonder if he has a change as they must stink a bit by now?) and this time upped the ante by threatening him with a shotgun he had in his car. All this while standing next to a police officer. But it was OK apparently because he was a friend. I’m pretty sure had the roles been reversed someone would have been arrested and locked up pretty swiftly. Nice to know where you stand on these matters.

The land owner frothed at the mouth and was very hostile while others wanted to use their own children as a human shield in the false belief we couldn’t film their actions with them there. Aren’t they just wonderful examples of compassion and honour! Once again we stopped their little games despite their best efforts and attempts at subterfuge. Watch the video; I think you’ll enjoy it.

You may remember my blog entry from a few weeks ago regarding a Freedom of Information Request to West Mercia Police after they deployed significant resources to protect an illegal Mink Hunt (see here). I also suggested it may be a good idea to contact West Mercia and get them to explain themselves and that’s exactly what some of you did, so thanks to those who took the time and effort there. One particular query and response was forwarded to MorethanjustBadgers and I’d like to address the explanation given by West Mercia Police.

First of all the question was asked:

Why, may I ask are you spending all this money protecting people who are committing a crime? If you actually advised those hunting illegally that they would be arrested and charged perhaps they would then stop of their own accord. Thus those people who try to stop the illegal activity would not need to do so and your police force would not have to waste taxpayers time and money assisting criminals.

This is not the first time your police force has spent taxpayer’s money on enabling illegal hunting to continue. I fail to understand why your force allows these people to keep carrying out illegal acts and protects them whilst they are doing so.

And the Response:

As per our initial response, we must again re-alliterate that no police resources were pre-assigned to this hunting event, resources were only allocated in response to calls received from concerned members of the public (1). Whenever a call is received from a member of the public asking for police assistance, a dynamic risk assessment is applied and a decision made as to whether to send resources at all and if so, how many and of what type. Often, the decision maker around that allocation has to act on a partial picture of events on the ground based on incomplete and sometimes conflicting information (2).

Once resources arrived at the scene, a further assessment will take place as to what has happened, whether any offences have taken place and if there is a need for continuing police or partner agency involvement. Needless to say the more complex and involved the incident, and therefore require a longer police presence to complete a full assessment. The costs released in the freedom of information act request represent the time incurred by those units deployed to this incident, through until such time as they were released to other duties (3).

In incidents of this nature, the police are often faced by conflicting version of events from those present. They have to act based on what can be assessed at the time, and in the area of public protest, strike a proportionate balance between ensuring those who wish to go about their lawful activities may do so, while also ensuring those who wish to legally protest may also do so (4).

The police service does not enable illegal activity, nor protect those who engage in such activity. Where there is evidence of offences having been committed, we will conduct a proportionate investigation, but such allegations must be evidence based (5).

Let’s address these in order.

(1) As noted in my previous blog entry the police were not called by a concerned “member of the public” but in fact they were called by the hunt themselves. Although they could be perceived as members of the public they clearly have a vested interest in the outcome of the proceedings and will have no doubt painted a somewhat distorted picture of what was really going on.

(2) So the police openly admit they had little idea of what was going on and yet decided in very quick fashion to deploy multiple units as well as closing down a section of the town centre causing significant disruption to the local community and the justifying the cost of putting the helicopter on the scene. I would suggest whoever carried out their dynamic risk assessment may have overreacted.

(3) Once they had these multiple units in place it seems they were still unable to deduce who the criminals really were (threats of violence using a knife where made against a sab at the scene and captured on video). Perhaps it was a quiet day in that part of the country and very little crime taking place elsewhere as 10 vehicles and a helicopter would certainly seem to be overkill, perhaps they all fancied some action, not that there was any, we’re a non-violent direct action group although will defend ourselves if required.

(4) Well of course there was conflicting reports however there is one singular event which negates the rest of this part of the statement. We weren’t protesting and the hunt weren’t going about their lawful business. We were there to stop illegal hunting as we have a right to do and the hunt was hunting illegally. The hunter who called the police openly admitted to hunting in contravention of the Hunting Act. Police calls are routinely recorded so they could have referred back to the conversation and yet chose to ignore this information. We often have the police claim that the hunting act is a matter of personal choice, a conflict of morality and tradition which they won’t get involved with but let’s make things clear here. The Hunting Act 2004 is a fully endorsed piece of legislation supported by over 80% of the population and they are required to enforce that legislation as required by the law of the land. Now I’m not suggesting there was enough evidence in this instance to proceed with a prosecution however spending that amount of tax payer’s money on the protection of the hunt is certainly a kick in the teeth for anyone with a shred of decency and a concern for animal welfare.

(5) Well, pardon me if I’m wrong but you just did. An admittance of guilt is evidence of sorts and while the other evidence was largely circumstantial it was pretty obvious to anyone with half a brain what was going on. This statement just suggests that unless you have damming evidence of killing, undeniable proof of unlawful activity we’re really not interested, although we’re interested enough to deploy a helicopter, 10 cars and spend a shed load of cash. Surely a more proportionate response would have been a little less extreme and one sided. The police are without doubt severely blinkered on this issue.

It’s a funny old world we live in. Except I’m not laughing.

Thanks to the reader who supplied me with all the information, it is appreciated.

For those of you who get the regular updates you’ll be aware of the operations undertaken over the last few weeks involving the targeting of illegal Mink hunts across the country which, I’m glad to say, we successfully disrupted. The last operation was particularly interesting mainly due to the excessive police involvement from the West Mercia force. This became of particular interest, as a law abiding tax payer I like to know how my hard earned cash is being spent so a Freedom of Information Request to the West Mercia Force asking for their policing costs for that single operation.

Today I got their response.

Total policing hours: 35

Cost: £661.59

Police helicopter: Airborne for 1 hour and 35 minutes.

Cost: £2770.50

Additional costs would have been incurred in the control room but as they were dealing with multiple incidents they cannot specify costs.

I would imagine there would also have been additional costs in terms of fuel for the police vehicles, we counted 10 separate vehicles at different times during the operation and allowing for various other costs not specified I think it would be safe to say the overall costs would have been in excess of £3500.

West Mercia Police – Spending your cash

I don’t know about you but that seems like a lot of money. What makes these costs even more galling is that it was in support of an illegal activity. There’s no argument about the previous point, the hunt themselves even admitted on the phone to the police they were hunting, not exercising hounds, not going on a nice run in the countryside, not engaging in any other lawful activity.

They were hunting, with dogs, in contravention of the Hunting with Dogs Act 2004.

Of course it’s difficult to deny the activity when you have spades for digging out your quarry and terriers to send down holes but the stupidity of openly admitting your guilt beggar’s belief. Unless of course you know you’re not going to get prosecuted. Not only not get prosecuted but have the police spend thousands of pounds acting as personal security.

If that doesn’t sound wrong then you’re either an immoral hunter or just not comprehending the issue.

I’m not sure what’s worse here, the fact that illegal hunting continues with an annoying level of impunity or the fact their protection is being paid for by a largely unsuspecting general public. Most people I talk to honestly believe that this type of hunting is a thing of the past since the act came into force and they’re astonished when they find out it still goes on. Figures released in the last few days show prosecutions under the act are at their highest level since coming into force (110 individuals in 2013) with the numbers showing a distinct upward trend but this is largely down to the various dedicated groups obtaining the required evidence to gain these prosecutions and little to do with effective policing. The Act is far from perfect but it’s what we have to work with until it can be improved.

So if you’re feeling a bit peeved with the situation maybe give West Mercia Police a call and ask why they’re spending so much of your money protecting criminals and not enforcing a piece of legislation supported by over 80% of the population.

If you get a response let me know.