Countryside Alliance Executive Chairman Barney White-Spunner writes about our campaign to unmask the animal rights extremists: In January this year Mike Lane, Master and Huntsman of the Tedworth Hunt in Wiltshire, was hospitalised by anti-hunt thugs who beat him with metal bars and chains. Despite massive publicity and a national outcry from far beyond the hunting community, nobody has been charged with this violent assault because his attackers were wearing face coverings.
As any hunt which has dealings with saboteurs will report, these cowards tend to hide behind balaclavas and scarves and dress in a mock paramilitary uniform of black combat gear because they know this makes them all but impossible to identify and therefore to bring to justice.
Following the attack on Mike we asked you to lobby your Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables, asking them to ensure officers are able to order the removal of face coverings when sabs congregate. Whilst the lobby received a very positive response from the police, and tens of thousands of you took part, the law remains hard to enforce and Mike Lane has had no justice.
A police officer can arrest someone if they have reasonable grounds to suspect they are involved in a crime, but they cannot order the removal of a mask or balaclava without the express permission of a senior officer.
This is clearly impractical and does not make allowances for the pressures of on-the-ground policing and the need for swift and decisive action. We will be pressing the Government to amend the legislation in the forthcoming Policing and Criminal Justice Bill. We believe officers faced with masked activists need the authority to demand the immediate removal of face coverings. Those intent on harassment and intimidation need to be identifiable and not outside the law.
The current law is unwieldy and is allowing vicious attackers, like those who assaulted Mike, to get away scot-free.
In due course we will be asking you to lobby your MP to support this amendment. In the meantime, please consider joining us as a member to ensure we can carry on fighting for the issues that affect you and your sport.