“Nobody has Wanted to Talk about Hunting, Other than Trolls!” Says PCC Candidate Jonathon Seed

Busy day, chatting to Wiltshire Police Crime Commissioner candidates and The Wilts Hunt Sabs; something is conflicting…

In 2012 five members of the Avon Vale Hunt, including the master huntsman and Wiltshire councillor, Jonathon Seed appeared in court charged with breaching the Hunting Act 2004. Though they all denied the breach before magistrates in Chippenham, Seed made a statement released to the Wiltshire Times, “This is a private prosecution by the RSPCA and I believe that it has been commenced for political reasons, as their stance against hunting is well known and it is of great significance that Wiltshire Police, after advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, declined to take this case forward. These proceedings are an abuse of the private prosecution system, which needs to be addressed in due course.”

And how best to address said abuse? Elect to become Police Crime Commissioner, that’s how. Perhaps it’s an episode the councillor wishes would disappear, going on the rather defensive attitude he put up when I chatted with him about his campaign this morning. And for what’s it’s worth, he provided some great ideas and valid points on subjects he attempted to divert me onto, but I was wondering where he actually stood on hunting, being, you know, it’s illegal, and he’s wants to be Police Crime Commissioner, just felt, well, a tad conflicting.

“Okay, so, not about the campaign then,” he started.

But I think it’s relevant. “Hunting is illegal,” I pointed to the seemingly obvious, “surely we would want a PCC who upholds the law?”

“Are you suggesting that I wouldn’t want the law upheld?” came Jonathon’s reply. Had to say, far from suggesting anything, the question was built behind the datum the huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt appeared in court with allegations he broke the law. And upon experts in the field, Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who seemed convinced laws had been broken that day. “The badger sett incident,” they confirmed, “it’s clear evidence they were illegally hunting. It’s illegal to use terriers underground (the exemption is in relation to birds, which isn’t relevant on a hunt.) There can only be one reason for sending terriers to ground and that is to flush a fox.”

“You were,” I checked, “huntsmaster for the Avon Vale hunt at the time?”

“You will already know that I was,” Johnathon stated, “the allegation against me that was unfounded was dropped and is covered in the blog.”

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs claimed, “it wasn’t unfounded at all, the current Huntmaster (Stuart Radborne) was found guilty of interfering with the sett. The fact they couldn’t prove hunting act charges is yet more evidence that the law around hunting needs tightening.”

“Do you have anything to ask about the campaign,” Johnathon inquired, “or are you just interested in the Avon Vale Hunt?”

Yes, I do. So, I asked him, “if successful in the post, would you therefore discourage police to act against hunting offences? I mean, I understand, because they’d be personal friends engaged in something you firmly believe in. Also, would you support a turnaround of the law to allow hunting?”

And thus, came the jaw-dropper.

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.” Rather than be labelled a “troll,” by Tory boss-cop I allowed myself to be side-tracked. Jonathon was keen to lobby government for further funding, “Wiltshire is the third poorest funded force per head of population in the country, it needs overhauling and I will work with government to achieve this.”

“I have spoken to thousands of people about policing over the last four years,” he said, “residents, officers, volunteers, victims of crime and nobody has wanted to talk about hunting other than trolls online.”

Funds would put more officers in our communities, and offer better support for training and officers and staff’s mental health, and I cannot argue with this, though I pondered why it should be; are we all so better behaved in rural Wiltshire, so we don’t need as much policing as an urban area? I know I am!

“Historic underfunding of the force will continue to be an issue due to the way the funding formula is weighted towards some areas,” Johnathon explained, “The current PCC has done nothing to improve the situation and I believe the public deserve a PCC who will lobby the heart of government for better funding.”

I overlooked the oxymoron; “heart of government.”

In true Conservative fashion he blamed Labour, because fourteen years isn’t enough to up a budget. “The formula was created under Blair so naturally favoured labour voting areas,” he reckoned. “Getting the central government funding addressed has to be a priority. Just because we are a rural county doesn’t mean we don’t have sophisticated criminals operating in our towns and villages; domestic abuse, child sexual exploitation, modern day slavery, county drugs lines all affect our communities….”

“And fox hunters?” I added!

“It’s a shame that without knowing me or talking to me you would assume I would actively seek to have the law overlooked,” Johnathon asserted. “I do not and would not want our police to do this for any crime. The Chief Constable has my full backing to ensure that the law is upheld. There is no picking and choosing who the police ‘police.’ Operational policing isn’t the responsibility of the PCC.”

On the front seems Johnathon has good policies, but they’re undoubtably all politically motivated. Do we need a local councillor in the role, or someone who has been actively in the field, policing? I also spoke to independent candidate Mike Rees, passionate about delivering a quality police service for the people. And have to admit, it was akin to chatting to eager musicians when interviewing them. In fact, if there’s irony in voting for a police candidate suspected of breaking the law, the only similarity is that Mike is in a heavy rock band called “the Lawless!”

He told me of annual fundraising gigs at Level III with a plethora of other bands, which has raised £13K for his own charity “Fatboy’s Cancer Charity,” which aims to bring a smile to children who are suffering from cancer or have other life-threatening illnesses. He was also adamant he loved animals, and aside his respect for traditional aspects of rural life, more needed to be done to enforce the Hunting Act. Mike went as far as telling me he’d like to set up a hedgehog rescue centre in his retirement.

“I know there’s a difference between what the boss says and what the police see, I’d like to see a happy workforce, not demoralised.” He expressed a want to improve the service, the relationship between officers and the bosses, and the public, as he’s been on the beat in Swindon, working up through surveillance and CID to counter-terrorism, called in to help during the London bombing. “No wool pulled over my eyes,” Mike added.

“We’ve seen year on year increases to the policing precept, yet no tangible changes or improvements to the service the public of Wiltshire receive,” Mike stated, “seems evident to me and the many people who I speak with, that the Police sometimes do not have the resources to deal with many of the basic responsibilities that we expect; and all too often we see the cracks of struggling service delivery being papered over with a slick marketing campaign, or dare I say it, a social media post!”

“I know that savings can be made, and I also know how tax-payers money is sometimes squandered by Police managers,” he continued. “A politician who doesn’t understand policing can be told that something is required or best value, and will just accept what they are told. I know whether it is actually nice to have or need to have. Spending needs to be scrutinised very closely and I would look to do that to ensure money is diverted to the right resources and needs.”

Though Mike said Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently. To my knowledge, I am the only independent candidate for Wiltshire so his comments are clearly directed to me!” But “the last thing I want to do is get involved in a continual slanging match with any of the other candidates.” Which is just as well for them, as an amateur boxer, I wouldn’t argue!

Jonathon Seed was “very critical of Independent Candidates on his Facebook page recently.”

He compared his own campaign budget to Johnathon’s on the precept he doesn’t mind if he doesn’t get the job, estimating Seed has “about £50k to spend on campaigning, I’ve got about £50, and I begrudge paying that! Money is squandered when it should be to improve services.”

The hunting issue will always be a touchy subject in any rural settings with opinions so divided. But the law is the law, and if anyone upholds it, it should be Police Crime Commissioner. Though while Mr Seed’s blogposts call for his innocence, they also state: “Millions of people in this country engage in perfectly legal fishing, hunting and shooting pastimes and should not be demonised and bullied by a small but vocal minority who do not approve of these pastimes,” and “It is utterly irrelevant to the vast majority of the electorate whether or not a political candidate had a lawful interest in country sports along with millions of other law-abiding people.” Left me wondering how defending wild animals under lawful methods, could possibly deemed demonising and bullying.

“If you wanted to ask me something sensible about fox hunting,” Johnathon said, “rather than the usual stuff that has been well rehearsed and I know doesn’t resonate with rural voters, ask me my views on the change to trespass and who it will apply to.”

But I didn’t like to ask, changing rules to trespass blatantly is there to halt operations from protesters. The Wiltshire Hunt Sabs said, “we’d love to know if he still hunts, we haven’t seen him out with the AVH, but there was a rumour he may go out with the Tedworth. I suspect he has paused for the election. It’s interesting he calls concerned members of the public “trolls”. How arrogant do you have to be to think that regular members of the public aren’t interested in his background as a fox hunter!”

I’ll let the hits on this article decide, and leave it there. I’m all for deciding the next Police Crime Commissioner based purely on a doughnut eating contest, might be easier, might even win myself! Then you’d all be buggered!


Opinion: House Party Organiser in Devizes Issued with £10,000 Fine

Daniel Jae Webb reports for Wiltshire 999s that the organiser of the house party, in Wick Lane, Devizes on Friday night, has been issued a £10,000 fine by Wiltshire Police, for ignoring a police warning.

Officers were called to the house and requested the party was be shut down in line with COVID-19 regulations, and claims their pleas were ignored. A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said, (which I’ve had to amend the basic grammar of, like a primary school teacher): “As we continue to navigate through the COVID pandemic, we all have to take personal responsibility for our actions and adhere to the regulations.”

“Despite a warning, the organiser allowed the gathering of 80-100 people to continue, which is in clear breach of the current restrictions. Which states that ‘no gathering of more than 30 people may take place indoors, which would constitute a rave, if it were outdoors; amplified music, at night and due to loudness, duration and time it would likely cause significant distress to locals.”

Partygoers were dispersed and the hefty fine was issued. It’s a substantial amount for anyone to digest, the website stated, “there is no discretion given to set a lower amount.” Job done police, story dusted and archived. In my opinion, though, I’m afraid it feels far from over and arguably raises a number of questions.

I feel impelled ask then, firstly, was it shut down for safety reasons, due to the pandemic, or as the Wiltshire Police spokesman clearly states here, “amplified music at night would likely cause significant distress to locals?”

I cannot help but agree in this era of the pandemic we all must consider the risks and act accordingly, but the environment must be attained for people to want to do this, and take action appropriately, rather than feel they are being forced by law. Yes, the organiser and everyone who attended was putting their own health and the health of others at risk, and were foolish to do so. And when the officers attempted to engage with the group, they should have taken heed. Yet they should have wanted to do this of their own free will.

The harder the law, the more likely the rebellion toward it, though it may be important for the law to be enforced, an unaffordable fine such as this is draconian. It’s likely to have an adverse effect from the youth, who understandably see their lives disrupted in the same manner as everyone else, yet with no clear indication of ideas are being pitched to support them.

We’re casting our children out into the riskiest easing of lockdown ruling since it began, by returning them to school and college, and though you may deem it necessary, can you not also see they must feel like lab rats?

From all ancient philosophies and all of history we see a continuous pattern; people wishing to gather and celebrate is ingrained in our psyche and culture. And let’s face it, the conservative ethos set to stamp out partying long before this pandemic.

The breakup of the trend of the free festival scene in the eighties, only constituted a bigger problem to attempt to outlaw, the raves in the nineties. Retrospective youth cultures we can reflect back on now, and realise and agree the occurrences of these events were not only ground-breaking for artistic progression, and memorable for the attendees, but in reality, harmless fun.

Regulating and eventual normalising of the Criminal Justice Bill, saw something far worse; a political and social rejection of society, and a fight between police and people; a disgruntled conflict.

The psychological effect of lockdown is only just beginning to be felt, as we venture away from it. You feel isolation for the elderly was difficult, how was it for our younger generation who, by the illusion of timespan, six months feels far longer? The need in younger people to party must be recognised, as I’d imagine older generations reflect upon their youth misdoings. Rather we’re stamping our authority around and closing individual cases with a pat on the back and a job well done. We should, as a society in the dawn of change, be considering how we can arrange and organise celebratory events and parties sensibly and safely.

We have managed to adopt and implement new systems for shopping, for eating out, travel, and all other activities older generations wish to engage in, we should now focus on ways to keep the younger satisfied too. I don’t profess to have the answers, but believe by thinking together, and frankly, giving a hoot about our entire population, we can work out methods to accomplish it. Furthermore, if ideas were suggested and implemented so parties could go ahead safely, the need and want to break the law will surely lessen.

Break up the party, yes indeed, as we’re far from out of the water, but chuck people a paddle. They need a release; they need party and celebrate now more than ever in these trying times. If not, issue 10k fines to all who break the regulations; every grandad who forgets and leans over you in a supermarket, every businessman internationally jetting around the world, anyone, I dunno, who felt like driving across the country during lockdown to visit a castle, perhaps?

Help Pewsey Mum on her Campaign to free her Children from Abduction

So, Devizine exists to highlight and promote local events and I try my best, apart from the odd bit of cheeky satire, to steer away from political matters. Yet I’m both heartbroken and at a loss for words this afternoon, chatting online to Pewsey mum, Tanya Borg. But within it, there is an event I need to let you know about, in this horrid mess, please read on….

Tanya’s two daughters, Angel and Maya were abducted by their father five years ago, and taken to Libya to live with his family. After being granted full custody in both nations, Tanya travelled to Libya to rescue them, but Tanya explains when they tried to get away, they were bundled in a car and driven away. She hasn’t seen or had contact with them since.

Red tape between the Crown Prosecution Service and Wiltshire Police has prevented further action from being taken, and under advice of the CPS, Wiltshire Police have closed the case. “The CPS are saying they don’t tell the police what to do,” Tanya explained, “But Wiltshire Police are saying the CPS don’t want to take the case.” I cannot imagine how distraught she must be. “You have no idea,” Tanya continued, “Angry. Frustrated. Sad. My daughters need help.”

In fear for the treatment of her daughters, Tanya went to explain how, after a court order for joint custody, their grandmother wouldn’t allow them to leave the house, so Tanya tried for full custody, but they ran away with the children. Angel is now twenty, and Maya just eight. A Daily Mail article exposes the issue, with a video of the father’s family driving them away. It is with hope the video will pressure British authorities to reopen the case.

This is where I asked if Tanya had or has any further contact with them, and the short answer was “no.” In England we complain about this, whinge about that, the bus being delayed etc, we really don’t understand how life is in Libya. “Because there is no authorities inside Libya, due to the situation, as Libya is at war with itself,” Tanya detailed, “it is dangerous, and that is their excuse, but now there has been a newly elected government, they could at least try, that is what is most upsetting, they haven’t even tried. I feel like my children don’t matter, because I am not of status.”

Firstly, Tanya has a GoFundMe campaign page, where you can contribute. “It’s a corrupt country, and money talks,” she explains, “I can’t do anything without it.” Tanya has spoken to Claire Perry, who passed it onto the Minister of the African Department, “which say,” Tanya claimed, “They cannot do anything.” MP Danny Kruger has been emailed, which was my first port-of-call, and we await a response.

Tanya plans to take a protest to Downing Street on the 8th August, but has also staged an event in Pewsey on the 25th July. Meeting at the Cooper’s Arms at 3pm, the protest will follow the eminent carnival route. “My eldest daughter,” Tanya explained, “was carnival princess back in 2011.” They will be chanting “Free Angel and Maya,” but ask protesters observe social distancing and wear facemasks. “I would love as many people to attend and support,” she hopes, “to help me bring my babies home.” Tanya will also be organising a local coach for the Downing Street protest.

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A Local Look at Knife Crime

Navigating my footing becoming trickier as guy-ropes criss-crossed my path midst the shadowy maze of tents, still I chased. For reasoning I need not go into, the pursued managed to grab two twenty-pound notes from my wallet, one of which I snatched back, the other he made off with. The fleeting moment had gone from bad to worse, at this huge, anarchic festival. Now I was alone, chasing this kid. He had encouraged me not to follow, threatened to “carve me up.” I doubted his word; “carve me up,” over a score?

The notion arrived at my frontal lobe when he abandoned escape, turned to flash a blade at me. It only registered once I was an inch away, and he took a swing with the knife, then, thankfully, I took heed of common sense; wasn’t worth twenty quid. I backed off; he ran. He got a note off me; sucks, but I kept my life.

Reminiscing this feels like a movie, you know, where the hero escapes with seconds to spare; utterly thoughtless to have taken it that far, there’s no reruns in real life, no alternative ending. I find myself contemplating the what ifs, in this era where knife crime is rife, so the media informs us. I stagger at the whole stupidity of it, worry for youth, in times of desperation, economic slump, taking to the streets armed is a sad reality.

To those who adopt this philosophy, look at my pitiful example of yore; you’re not a “playa,” not doing anything fresh, nothing gallant or outrageous, zilch “gangsta” pal, just foolhardiness you cannot, and will not see as such until you get wise, or on a hospital bed.

Least, I speculate, should think ourselves lucky in Wiltshire, where by comparison I believe the chances of being a victim of knife crime is way less. But how much less, and is it on the increase? What would happen to me if I was caught with a knife in Wiltshire? I thought I’d hassle Wiltshire Police’s PC Paul Woodbridge for answers. If you do take a knife out to play, maybe you couldn’t care less what the police have to say. Yeah, alright, you’re free to skip the interview part, but I beg you scroll to the conclusion under the line.

Now, the Salisbury Journal reported in January that Wiltshire is bucking the trend of increasing knife crime, and ours has gone down recently, The Swindon Advertiser ran a similar article, but back in April last year it reported precisely the opposite: “Stats show Wiltshire knife crime up 214 per cent in five years.” So, after an increase, it seems the rate is dropping locally. I asked Paul how this reflects on the knowledges of the police on the streets?

“I’m not sure where your stats come from but you may be referring to some PA figures released recently which show a hike between 2013 and 2018,” he explained. “If that’s the case then the explanation is that our recording of knife crimes has improved in that time along with more people coming forward to report such crimes, thanks to the increased publicity around this issue. Overall, our knife crime figures show Wiltshire is a safe place to live; the statistics show knife crime has dropped by 18% across the county in the past year (Sept ’17 to Sept ’18) but we won’t ever rest on our laurels, and will firmly deal with anyone who we find carrying a knife.”

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The assumption is violent crime, particularly knife-crime is predominantly a city problem, how much better does our market towns like Devizes, Marlborough and Melksham compare to our larger towns and cities, like Salisbury and Swindon? “By the nature of population sizes,” PC Woodbridge clarified, “and generally speaking, smaller towns do not experience the same extent of crimes as larger towns and cities.”

Yet though I’ve been planning this article for a while now, only this morning a post on a Devizes Facebook group claimed their son was attacked by youth with a knife, and was cut across the face.

What would PC Woodbridge advise if you’re threatened with a knife? Or is this a no-brainer; I mean, I’d run, right? But what if you’re cornered? Does he think self-defence classes are a good thing? “As you said, the best advice is always to run and get help.” He continued, “get somewhere public where lots of people are, if possible, and call the police on 999. Self-defence classes are down to personal preference, but I would always look to put as much distance between me and the knife as I could.”

I wanted to gage PC Woodbridge on the wonky ethos of carrying a knife for protection, what would he say to those who do? “Statistics show that that those who carry knives are much more likely to be injured than those who don’t. Carrying a knife does not make someone safer and you will be arrested if caught with an illegal knife and not a good reason to be carrying it. You could then face time in prison.”

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What about armistice in a town like Devizes? What would happen to you, what would be the process if you walked into the police station and handed over a knife? PC Woodbridge explained, “if you were to hand in a knife then we would take your details and provided there had been no offences committed, then it would be disposed of. Don’t forget in September last year we had a countywide knife amnesty as part of Wiltshire Police’s knife crime campaign, Op Sceptre, where up to 500 knives were handed in to police stations across the county and disposed of safely. We will plan other amnesties in the future.”

I asked him, what else can we do to raise awareness and promote knife crime safety? “Information and education are paramount. Our recent Op Sceptre campaign has been very successful. During a week earlier in March, we spoke to people and gave out leaflets to underline the message: ‘No knife, safer life.’ We also do a large social media and media campaign. Search for ‘Op Sceptre’ to see what was covered.”

“Op Sceptre may be over for now,” PC Woodbridge continued, “but our work doesn’t stop, we’re never complacent about knife crime and I want to remind everyone that we will respond to any intelligence and information given to us by the public; knife crime can affect anyone. We also continue working with schools and colleges to keep the safety and educational messages in the public domain.”

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Wiltshire Police Website


 

So, that’s what the police said, but with all due respect to PC Woodbridge, and though I’m grateful for his time, I’d wager the ones we really need to reach out to have skipped past this, don’t care for the what the police have to say. So, I reply, okay, fair enough, for now, to hell with the police, it’s just me and you here talking, right? I don’t write like the standard press, out to make money. Readers expect an honest review, so I write from the heart. Take the start of this piece for example, journalists never open on a real personal incident, okay?

I know, understand and appreciate the world may’ve dealt you a shit card. Maybe your folks did a shit job at being parents, maybe you reckon this government are selfish, backstabbing bastards, and I’d say, yeah, you’re right, mate. Must be loads guilty for how crap your life is; but the thing is, it doesn’t matter who you’d like to point the finger to, when you choose to go out and take a knife, no one is to blame in that instance, but YOU.

It is your decision. If a government doesn’t want anarchy through poverty, why would it apply pressure through consistent service and educational cuts, when the magic money tree exists? I don’t know; maybe because it’s hidden in a walled garden. They pick it for funding war, bailing themselves out by buying votes, and lavish luncheons. I swear, it’s what they want you to do, takes the pressure off them. Channel your anger at them, see? By taking a knife to some kid who maybe dissed you out of tenner, may be shagging your girlfriend, or not paid you for that eighth, taking your frustration out on any Joe Bloggs, you’re playing into their hand. I’d even go as far as saying, alright, we live in the real world; bods mug each other off, and if so, if has to come to it, take it out with fisticuffs.

The vicious cycle is that you take out a knife, and they need to take out a knife, and she needs to take out a knife and everyone’s taking out a fucking knife. Break that cycle, or, simply, someone is going to get killed, if not you, them, but shit, you’re still gonna do time for it. That is pointless and damn right stupid.

Thank you to PC Woodbridge for his valuable time, I’m not one to say if this will make everyone stop and think about it, but if just one does, that’s one life saved.

 

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