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 operational response to Hunting is based on advice from the national Police Chief lead, 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.
We acknowledge the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004 which legitimise certain types of hunting.
We acknowledge, in equal measure, that those who are opposed to hunting have the right to protest.
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. 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.
We are fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, to bring to justice any person found breaking the law.
As in previous years, we will have an active presence of well-trained officers at organised trail laying events during this coming season. 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. 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 those who engage in illegal activity to prevent hunting.
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 un-edited form, and without delay
The details of any potential witnesses present
First-hand accounts from victims.
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.
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.
For several years the force has worked hard to engage with those who hunt, and with those who seek to protest. We will continue to engage with all parties and will offer consultation events for parties to meet with us before the start of the season. This will provide an opportunity for us to listen to any concerns and to describe how our hunting operation will work this year.
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. As such, it is our intention not to respond to such social media discussions in the coming season. Instead, we offer all parties direct engagement with our staff throughout the season with any issue that they wish to raise. It is our clear view that social media platforms are not the places to air evidence to help prove or disprove guilt.
We are proud of our approach to hunting, and we remain committed to ensuring that we meet our duty to protect our communities and to keep the public safe throughout the season.