This is our response to a statement made by Cheshire Police. We hope this helps Cheshire police to review and make the neccessary changes that is needed to restore public confidence in the ability of the police and provide an operational and investigative response to illegal fox (trail) hunting in Cheshire.
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 response : It has become increasingly apparent to the public that Cheshire Police lack an independent and impartial stance when policing hunting crimes. Incidents of illegal hunting, associated crimes and violence have increased along with public concern over the failures of the police to control and secure prosecutions in the Cheshire area.
Our operational response to hunting is based on advice from the national police chief lead,
Our response : It is not for the police, PCC or police chiefs to cherry pick which laws should be upheld or which violations should be investigated depending on location, perceived importance or who the offender is. A law is a law, and violent crime is an offence regardless of whether it happens in a town or rural area.
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.”
Our response : Social media does not amplify illegal hunting or it’s associated crimes; it merely makes people more aware of offences which are occurring and laws that are not being properly enforced.
We acknowledge the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004 which legitimise certain types of hunting.
Our response : Here we have to assume the police are referring to trail hunting. The Hunting Act 2004 does not legitimise “Trail Hunting” as this is just a made up name designed to disguise the true intent of illegal hunting with dogs. Trail hunting is not even mentioned in the Hunting Act as this name was made up after the hunting act came into force.
We acknowledge, in equal measure, that those who are opposed to hunting have the right to protest.
Our response : There is strong evidence that the police are failing to protect those who have the legal right to protest from the violence of hunts and their supporters.
For several years the force has worked hard to engage with those who hunt, and with those who seek to protest.
Our response : As pointed out in the PCC review, it seems Cheshire Police are continually failing to engage with those who choose to monitor or protest against illegal hunting. The public monitoring of hunts is not a protest, it has become necessary as a result of the lack of policing of illegal hunting.
We would like to clearly state, while that there are a couple of excellent wildlife officers who actually care about protecting our wildlife and ensuring that criminals who hunt illegally are brought to justice, it would appear some members of Cheshire Police have questionable ethics regarding illegal hunting. It is a shame that these good wildlife officers do not receive the full backing of the Cheshire police force.
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.
Our response : The Cheshire rural crime strategy fails to mention how police will enforce the law relating to illegal fox hunting and its associated crimes. A transparent and clear strategy is needed to restore public faith in the police and PCC. There is little point in having meetings if no action is ever put into practice. The public want to witness a crack down on illegal hunting, cub hunting, associated crimes and the hunts’ rising violence.
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.
Our response : This is questionable when the police personally escort the hunt out at 5am to engage in “Cub Hunting” without question. Police are often accused of bias tendencies and protecting hunts who engage in illegal trail hunting. This only adds fuel to the fire when police are filmed participating with such support. It has also been widely publicised that there are Cheshire Police officers who are also members of the local hunt, demonstrating a conflict of interest.
Enforcing the law is not taking sides. This is a ridiculous statement for the police to make.
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.
Our response : Police fail to investigate illegal hunting and rarely get out in the field to observe or film such activity. The public do not pay their taxes for police to sit in their cars and watch the hunts go by.
As reported in the PCC review into hunting in Cheshire, the system for reporting hunting crimes, how these crimes are rated, and the police response is questionable. Recommendations were made which Cheshire police have failed to implement.
As in previous years, we have an active presence of well-trained officers at organised trail laying events during the hunting season.
Our response : Police fail to provide information on how their officers are trained on hunt-related crimes. A number of reports have now stated that this is an area where police officers need training to understand tactics that hunts use to avoid being prosecuted including hunting calls and horns which encourage hounds to chase foxes. This is a vital piece of evidence which police are failing to be trained in or investigate.
Police also never question hunts on their claims that a trail has been laid. This myth has been de-bunked many times, although the police fail to investigate the hunts claim that they lay a trail.
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.
Our response : It would be interesting to learn how police actually ensure hunts activity are within the parameters of the law considering they rarely get out into the field to police this activity or conduct undercover operations into illegal fox hunting or its associated crimes. The only thing police actually seem to be concerned about on occasion, is matters relating to public order especially when hunts have complained that saboteurs are spoiling their hunting fun.
Judging by the amount of police cars present at meets, budget does not seem to be a problem. Can we suggest rather than the police just sitting in their cars waiting for a public order offence to be committed, public money would be better spent actually collecting evidence and investigating illegal hunting and their associated crimes.
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.
Our response : Sadly it seems, the police do not pursue those who engage in unlawful hunting with any vigour. They seem to just take the hunts word that they are just trail hunting at face value without any question or investigation.
We are fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, to bring to justice any person found breaking the law.
Our response : A commitment would mean actually launching investigations and operations to collect evidence for themselves and not relying on the public to hand it to them.
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.
Our response : While we fully appreciate that the Hunting Act 2004 does contain many loopholes which allow hunts to make a mockery of the law and avoid prosecution, it has to be acknowledged that other police forces have managed to enforce the law and secure prosecutions. Yet Cheshire police have never managed to secure any prosecution in 14 years. This is a complete failure by the Cheshire Police force.
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.
Our response : Cheshire police fail to acknowledge that it is their responsibility to collect evidence of illegal hunting and its associated crimes. They should not rely on the public to hand it to them. The public do not get paid to do their job for them.
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.
Our response : We believe this works two ways. The police are often accused of bias and not engaging with public groups who monitor hunts. Should the police ever decide to start engaging more with groups who monitor hunts, this would be welcomed. As Cheshire Police do not seem interested in securing convictions against hunts, it is no surprise that the public have lost faith in the police. This has given rise to the number of public groups monitoring hunts. The lack of police engagement, failures & disinterest in upholding the law on hunting crimes, has contributed to the significant rise in hunt crimes and violence and the loss of public trust.
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.
Our response : Maybe it is time the police actually started to film and collect evidence of illegal fox hunting for themselves and not rely on the public to hand it to them. This could explain why Cheshire Police have never secured a conviction against hunts in 14 years, despite there being three notorious hunts known for their illegal hunting in the Cheshire area. If the public can collect evidence of illegal hunting, then it is not outside the capability of the police to do this for themselves, should they ever develope more incentive to uphold the law relating to hunting crimes.
It also needs to be pointed out that if the police feel that the public are not collecting enough court-worthy video evidence, then surely this confirms that the police do need to start working with people who monitor hunts, doing the job the police should be doing.
We recognise that much discussion, comment and posting of digital material around hunting takes place on social media. Many comments are based on inaccurate information that do not reflect a balanced view of the matters discussed. Frequently, video footage does not reflect the full scenario.
Our response : This comment is highly inappropriate. Do the police ever ask hunts to provide evidence of their claim that they have actually laid a trail when conducting investigations, question why terriermen are present with dogs and digging out tools on so-called legal trail hunts, or question why hunts have surrounded a wooded area (cub hunting) sending in hounds to hunt cubs? Surely this would give a balanced view into hunting activity. As hunts do not provide any evidence to back up any of their claims or prove they are in fact hunting legally, the police’s statement on a “balanced view” is somewhat misplaced. Once again, if public evidence provided is insufficient, this highlights the need for police to actually start investigating hunts in a more vigorous manner as they are paid to do.
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.
Our response : Making public statements that the public have not provided sufficient evidence is not responding to concerns of illegal hunting. Trying to offload the blame onto the public for failure to secure a conviction is not only shocking but highly offensive.
We remain committed to ensuring that we meet our duty to protect our communities and to keep the public safe throughout the season.
Our response : Allowing hunts to avoid prosecution is not in the best interests of the public and what the public pay their taxes for.
Other hunt-related crimes not being fully policed or investigated :
- Illegal use of quad bikes on roads.
- Reckless driving.
- Hunt hounds out of control on roads.
- Hunt hounds fouling in public places.
- Ignoring dog micro-chipping laws.
- Hounds out of control invading private gardens and attacks on domestic pets.
- Blocking of setts.
- Illegal digging out.
- Illegal use of terriermen and their dogs.
- Assault on monitors, saboteurs and public.
- Assault with a weapon (ie horses and whips).
- Criminal damage (damage to vehicles etc).
- Theft of equipment.
- Illegal blocking of roads to avoid being filmed.
- Obstruction of justice (tactics to block the filming of evidence).
- Trespass by hunts.
- Animal welfare issues.
- Intimidation, abuse.
- Dangerous reckless galloping on roads.
- Inspection and licensing of hunt kennels.
Overall summery :
We feel this statement made by Cheshire police is totally inappropriate and antagonises the public even further. There are clear failings by Cheshire Police in the investigation of hunt crimes and the upholding of the laws relating to illegal trail hunting and other associated crimes. The police cannot keep using the excuse of loopholes in the hunting act when most hunt-related crimes fall under different legislation.
Trying to offload the blame onto the public for not providing enough court-admissible evidence is an excuse for failings in policing and is highly inappropriate and offensive.
Hunts can resort to violent measures to prevent themselves being filmed engaging in illegal activity.
Many people are fully aware that hunts use the name of Trail Hunting as a guise to cover their illegal hunting activity. It is highly questionable if any hunts actually engage in genuine trail hunting, why should they need to when they can easily get away with illegal hunting.
Renaming an illegal activity doesn’t make it legal.
If burglars renamed theft as “borrowing” would the police start issuing statements saying “we support the right for burglars to engage in borrowing”?
We do not pay our taxes for criminal activity to be supported in any way by police.
This illegal hunting is bringing our whole legal and justice system into disrepute and making a mockery of the police and courts. It has to be questioned if the police are contributing to this. The 2018 season alone saw 550 reports of illegal hunting reported to just one organisation.
Update : 30th January 2019 :
David Keane (Cheshire PCC) : Released statement.
Cheshire’s police and crime commissioner David Keane has spoken to Cheshire’s acting chief constable Darren Martland about his concerns in regards to comments made by Cheshire Constabulary
David said: “I have spoken to the acting chief constable about my deep concerns in regards to the comments made by Cheshire Constabulary and he has admitted that they were inappropriate.
“He has also assured me that he will be undertaking a review of communications, alongside a review of ongoing investigations of illegal activity related to hunting.
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Liverpool Echo : Cheshire Police Failings & Complaints
The Canary : photographed attorney general Geoffrey Cox accused of ‘hosting’ a fox hunt
Cheshire police drop charges of hunt master Andrew German attacking a monitor with his horse and whip.
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