Untangling the events of the violence which occurred in Lacock on Boxing Day, and received national press interest, could take some time. But in a shocking revelation today, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed the officer Wiltshire Police sent to manage the meet, is a “fully paid up” member of the Avon Vale Hunt.….
PC Laura Hughes of Wiltshire Police, who also goes by the name of Laura Jordan, is seen in the videos taken at the meet, the sabs say she turned her back, “as violent thugs launched an attack on peaceful anti-hunt protestors,” and her own horse was ridden in the parade, by her friend and fellow hunter.
The sabs ask followers to make a formal complaint to the Office of and Police and Crime Commissioner and demand and enquiry.
Yet, further to our general article on Boxing Day Hunts, published prior to Boxing Day, we have indeed had a response from Communications & Engagement Officer, Philip Mackie, which might shed light on what could be viewed as a conflict of interests to many opposed to hunting. Basic upshot of this is, seems Wiltshire Police take the hunters on their word that there’s nothing illegal going on.
I asked Philip if Wiltshire Police observe the actual hunts, to be sure if a fox is flushed out, they do not pursue it, and would they be arrested if discovered they were.
“If offences under the Hunting Act are witnessed,” Philip started, “by the police or observers, they would be investigated as would any criminal offence.”
It must be hard to manage such an operation, I suggested, how does the police go about keeping up with the hunt to insure nothing illegal is happening? Do they use horses too?
“Wiltshire Police does not have a mounted section,” he replied, and continued to reveal they don’t even monitor the activities of the hunt. “We do not routinely monitor hunts as they are a lawful activity, if there is a suggestion of criminal offences, be they wildlife crime or other public order, assault offences or intelligence lead us to believe there is/was a likelihood of it happening officers would attend. The Rural Crime Team will also be looking to deter/capture hare coursers.”
So, it really is left up to the public to capture evidence rather than the fully-convinced police to monitor the goings on, despite mounting evidence many hunts do illegally kill foxes and the apparent trial is but a smokescreen, even if this particular hunt doesn’t.
Perhaps an oversight by Wiltshire Police to send an officer actively engaged in hunting, or considering her hobby is legal, nothing inconsistent is taking place here, but it cannot assist them particularly well to uphold impartial evaluation, and police the meet accordingly. It could be said PC Laura Hughes puts her career above her pastime, and policed the event accordingly, but some questions need to be raised as violence broke out between protesters and hunters at the event and it seemed, via videos, to be uncontrolled and out of hand.
I’d even say, policing this protest must have been no easy feat, and pressure on Laura and other officers to maintain the peace on such a dividing rural issue should be credited and valid, their contribution to policing should be upheld and acknowledged. Perhaps it was a wise choice to have someone who knew enough on the subject and understands the issues at hand?
While the protests staged by hunt sabs may be viewed as unwelcomed by some villagers, who else is there to insure nothing illegal is happening? How does Philip view the presence of hunt sabs? I asked him if their efforts are helpful to the police, if they work together, or if they are seen as an unwelcomed vigilante group?
“Hunt protestors and monitors are not viewed as a vigilante group,” he replied, “they have a passionate concern for the welfare of wildlife and this is understood and supported by the police and where criminal offences are suspected we urge them to come forward to provide their evidence.”
Evidence such as this shocking video from Surry Hunt Sabs, of the Boxing Day Royal Artillery Hunt at Chitterne? Warning: there are some shocking scenes depicted here:
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