Top cop warns of problems of hunt ban
POLICE forces could face major problems enforcing any outright ban on hunting with dogs, Suffolk's police chief has warned.Relations between rural communities and the police may also suffer if legislation is not practical, according to Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter .
POLICE forces could face major problems enforcing any outright ban on hunting with dogs, Suffolk's police chief has warned.
Relations between rural communities and the police may also suffer if legislation is not practical, according to Chief Constable Alastair McWhirter .
He issues the warnings in an article published today, in which he writes: "The Government has got itself into a predicament. The status quo is difficult to enforce. The current proposals could be significantly worse.
"There is no easy solution, but as one of the people charged with picking up the pieces after the introduction of any legislation, our plea to Parliament is simple – give us law that can be enforced."
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MPs voted in favour of an outright ban on hunting with dogs earlier this week – killing off Government proposals which would have outlawed stag-hunting and hare-coursing, but permitted fox-hunting under licence in areas where it was judged to be less cruel than other methods of culling foxes.
But doubt remains over whether the Bill will ever become law.
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However, writing in The Times, Mr McWhirter said: "Parliament's vote for an outright ban on hunting with dogs fills many of my colleagues 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."
He added: "It is impractical to stop and arrest huntspeople on horseback and seize the hounds and horses they use to commit the offence. No police force has the resources to do this, nor would they be able to accommodate horses or a pack of hounds to the required welfare standards until the case came to trial.
"The alternative is to report offenders for summons, as we would for a motoring offence, but the work required to summons a 30 or 40 strong hunt on horseback makes this almost impossible.
"One proposed solution is to video offenders so that they can be summoned later, such as happens at football disturbances. This is effective only when the individual can be clearly identified and if it can be shown that by his presence he was committing the offence.
"The saboteurs learnt that the way to stop being identified was to wear a mask or balaclava. Even when legislation giving the police powers to remove such masks was brought in, the protesters' riposte was to get everybody to turn up with their faces painted as tigers."
He said forces across the country had spent huge amounts policing hunts, trying to uphold the rights of both the hunt community and protesters.
He said the police would enforce any new legislation in such a way that it did not destroy their efforts to reassure rural communities they featured as highly in crime prevention plans as urban areas.
But Mr McWhirter added: "The Countryside Alliance says a ban will cause significant difficulties in policing rural communities because those who regard themselves as the greatest supporters of law and order will overnight be turned into criminals.
"The police will, of course, try to enforce any new law. If it means we come into conflict with our rural communities, that is the price of democracy."