Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Dreading Ban on Hunting

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Police Dreading Ban on Hunting

Article excerpt

Farcical scenes could result if police try to enforce a complete ban on hunting with dogs, it was warned last night.

A leading police officer said a ban would be impossible to police, with officers having to arrest huntsmen on horseback, or issue summonses to 30 or 40 riders who could be in balaclavas.

And anti-hunt protesters said it could lead to ridiculous scenes, with police trying to prove that riders out with dogs were actually chasing foxes.

The warnings came after MPs this week rejected the Government's "Middle Way" approach, which would have allowed hunting with dogs to continue under strict licensing. Instead, they voted by a large majority for a total ban.

Suffolk Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter, rural spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers, speaking on behalf of all his fellow chief constables, said: "Parliament's vote for an outright ban on hunting fills many of my fellow officers with dread.

"Not because the police are pro-hunting - the service is determinedly neutral - but because of the practical implications of enforcing such a ban."

Mr McWhirter said that it would be impossible for police to stop and arrest huntspeople on horseback and seize the hounds and horses they use to commit the offence.

The alternative of reporting offenders for summons would mean an impossible workload to summons a 30 to 40-strong hunt, especially if the hunters followed the example of the antis and wore balaclavas.

Richard Dodd, from the Countryside Alliance, agreed that rural police forces would find it difficult to stop people who wanted to continue hunting.

He said: "It will also be very difficult for police officers to prosecute cases of illegal hunting because people will just say they are exercising their dogs, just like the antis say they are out having a walk in the countryside.

"It will be like that scene from Blackadder when the horse is brought into court to give a signed confession, using a hoof print. It borders on the ridiculous."

He added: "It is going to create a resourcing nightmare for the rural police forces.

"Take County Durham for instance. There are half a dozen hunts operating in the county, each with about 60 riders and around 150 followers. It's going to take about 40 officers to police those hunts, when in reality there is only a handful who would have more important issues such as rural crime to deal with."

Durham Police Chief Constable Paul Garvin said: "We would always seek to uphold the law but the amount of resources that we could put into tackling any problem would have to be prioritised against other issues facing the force."

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "We would not wish to comment until any formal decision on what the legislation would be has been made. …

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