Constabulary statement on hunting with hounds
We hope that the following statement provides a clear and unequivocal expression, to all those who participate in, and protest against, hunting, of our independent and impartial operational stance.
Our operational response to hunting is based on advice from the national police chief lead, which recognises that “hunting with hounds is an emotive subject, bringing with it support, opposition and commentary from a wide spectrum of society, amplified by social media in this modern policing world.”
We acknowledge the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004 which legitimise certain types of hunting.
We acknowledge, in equal measure, that those who are opposed to hunting have the right to protest.
For several years the force has worked hard to engage with those who hunt, and with those who seek to protest. We continue to engage with all parties and offer consultation events for parties to meet with us before the start of the season. This provides an opportunity for us to listen to any concerns and to describe how our hunting operation will work this year.
Like all police forces in whose areas there are hunts, we tread a fine line between protecting these contrasting rights. We do not, and will not, take sides. We aim to maximise public safety, to facilitate lawful protest, to minimise disruption to our communities, and to provide an appropriate operational and investigative response to reports of unlawful activity.
As in previous years, we have an active presence of well-trained officers at organised trail laying events during the hunting season. They have a detailed knowledge of the Hunting Act, and of many other pieces of legislation, and will be able to determine whether offences have been committed. The role of these officers on the day of the hunt is to engage with participants from both sides at the meet and to ensure that the activity being carried out is being done so within the parameters of the law. They are also there to give reassurance and prevent incidents of disorder.
We will pursue with equal vigour those who engage in unlawful hunting, and other associated offences, and those who engage in illegal activity to prevent hunting.
We are fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, to bring to justice any person found breaking the law. This is a complex piece of legislation and many facets need to be evidenced for the complete offence to be proved. This can be extremely challenging.
In order to investigate, and in order to bring criminal charges against offenders, we rely on a number of things. They include:
- Witnesses who are willing to give signed statements and to attend court
- Those who filmed alleged criminality to provide a signed statement exhibiting that evidence in an unedited form, and without delay
- The details of any potential witnesses present
- First-hand accounts from victims.
We have found that often people are reluctant to engage with our investigation. Without the co-operation of those reporting an allegation of criminality it is almost impossible to secure a successful prosecution.
Without statements and without evidence, it is incredibly difficult for action to be taken. Any video footage needs to be properly accounted for by the person who filmed it for it to be admissible in court.
We recognise that much discussion, comment and posting of digital material around hunting takes place on social media. Many comments are based on partial information that does not always reflect the full scenario.
We endeavour to update the public on allegations arising from hunt activities, and we will respond to concerns through social media where it is appropriate to do so.
We remain committed to ensuring that we meet our duty to protect our communities and to keep the public safe throughout the season.