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19th February 2015

Illegal Hunting: Beware The False Alibi – If In Doubt Call 101

Acting on information received from a member of the public, in March 2007 a colleague and I attended an illegal two-day hare coursing event in North Yorkshire. On the morning of day one, as we pulled in to a verge to let vehicles pass along the narrow lane, a police car departed the scene. We noted the registration number.

Some weeks later we presented our evidence to the police. The officer in charge happened to be the driver of the car we’d noted. He held his hands up when we quizzed him why the illegal hunting had not been stopped at the time. He was at the scene to follow up complaints about highway obstruction. Apparently the coursing officials at the gate (you had to pay to enter) told him that they were doing ‘greyhound trialling’ which was different to hare coursing. With a few cosmetic changes to how the event was traditionally run and genuine ignorance of bloodsports from said copper, coursing supporters had invented a false alibi and they nearly got away with it.

Thankfully, Scarborough Magistrates Court was not hoodwinked. The landowners fought the charges but were convicted. A celebrity chef and a Sir decided to plead guilty as a result. Good job well done by IFAW, RSPCA and the police.

In 2011 the Huntsman and Terrierman from the prestigious, Leicestershire-based Fernie Hunt were convicted of Hunting Act offences. The judge who presided over their subsequent appeal accused them of using “cynical subterfuge” to twist evidence gathered by the League Against Cruel Sports and prepared by Leicestershire Police.

I suspect that with a few cosmetic changes to fox hunting, including the invention of a new post-Hunting Act sport dubbed ‘trail hunting’, similar acts of cynical subterfuge are widespread and ongoing. This is based on personal observation and the first-hand accounts of others.

The Hunting Act is the law, not a voluntary code of conduct which individuals or organisations can choose to observe or not. This is why reporting suspected illegal hunting to the police on 101 is so important. In these times of cuts and scarce resources, modern day policing is statistics-led. So getting a Log Number which records evidence of your call means that, literally, it counts. Sometimes we know that a phone call directly results in catching criminals red-handed.

Yes, it’s a hassle. Yes, you’ll feel interrogated by the police who want to know what you’ve seen and why, exactly, you think it’s a crime. But don’t be fobbed off or dissuaded. Just as there are police who can drive you crazy with their stubborn refusal to listen or see, so there are good coppers out there who’re willing to learn and have their misinformation corrected.

Take for instance the convictions of officials from the Meynell & South Staffordshire Hunt in 2012, again for Hunting Act offences. It was volunteers from the Hunt Saboteurs Association who gathered the evidence in this case. They compared their real-life footage with a scene from The Belstone Fox. The investigating officer saw exactly what was going on, the penny dropped, and justice was done.

Don’t leave it to others. If you see suspected wildlife crime report it. Your call counts.

Joe Hashman

Photo copyright © IFAW

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

  • kate bradley says:
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I phoned police on 999 with charge of illegal cub hunting on 28 th august 2014. Three times!!! Subsequent police complaint went through ,I have a copy of complaint letter. I also logged another complaint with a charge of illegal hunting on 15 Jan 2015. On a charge of hunt havoc. I have incident number. It took me thirty minutes to log it. Eventually I got through to a wild life crimes officer in dorch who said they would look at evidence if presented. But Dorset sabs and RSPCA give them evidence it does not get looked at. The wild life crimes officer told me they have an official policy to not go out on calls made on charges of hunt havoc, illegal hunting, and cub hunting. I have phoned several times to ask them to stop an illegal cub hunt they treat me as a fanatical anti hunt person. All they have to do is turn up and tell hunt to stop it!!! Police need better education on wild life welfare, better concern towards our wild life and they need to look at it sensibly as the law dictates not focussing on the loop holes and exceptions of the hunting act but taking a more responsible and ethical approach towards our wild life. I’ve seen herds of cows crash through gates, fox cub hard core brutal kills, deer jumping over barbed wire to flee for their lives which I think is totally and utterly unacceptable.

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  • Jane Carter says:
    Posted March 07, 2015 at 11:56 am

    We’ve had the same problems in Kent with the police just ticking boxes and not reacting properly to Ashford Valley & Tickham Hunt’s brazen hunting practices. However, there is a glimmer of hope – the new role of PCC. I have had great success with the Kent PCC, Ann Barnes. The Police are now liaising with League Against Cruel Sports re training officers. Do keep plugging away, and makes sure your MP knows that your community wants an MP to vote against repeal of Hunting Bill. In fact it needs strengthening by removal of all loopholes. Drag hunts are a myth, and will continue if Autumn “cubbing” isn’t stopped.
    I’ll be displaying the new fox car stickers everywhere and giving them as gifts.
    Good luck

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  • WilliamMuth says:
    Posted May 06, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks so much for the post. Want more.

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