Anti-hunt activists regularly submit “heavily edited” footage to police claiming it shows evidence of illegal hunting activity, a damning new independent review has found.
Research, commissioned by Labour’s North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin and conducted by Wrexham Glyndwr University, appears to vindicate concerns expressed by pro-hunting groups, who have long suspected that hunt saboteurs waste police time with “fraudulent” video footage.
The report corroborates the experience of his officers in North Wales, who say hunt saboteurs have provided them with footage which is “often edited, or grainy, long distance and...of no evidential value”.
Frustrated police told researchers that gathering statements from anti-hunt protestors was “near impossible” and that the protestors’ “focus is on sabotage not really prosecuting for the long term”.
The independent review also found that police in the area deploy “significant” resources to monitor hunting, despite public apathy towards the issue.
When called out to a hunt, police say their time is used up preventing “people coming to harm” as a result of the sabotage and disruption carried out by anti-hunt protestors.
Hunt prosecutions often “depend” on evidence obtained by anti-hunt activists, such as the League Against Cruel Sports, a 2014 barrister-led review of the issue concluded.
Due to the reliance on such material, it is significant that academics conducting this review found reason to question the “quality” of the footage collected by hunt monitors and saboteurs.
They said that most videos submitted to the inquiry by anti-hunt groups were “heavily edited, poor quality and had no date/time stamp”. Without a time stamp, the footage is unusable given that an offence has to be charged within six months of it occurring.
The report also queried “the willingness of individuals to give supporting statements, hand over equipment and material or attend court”.
This finding - that anti-hunt activists appear unwilling to comply with the investigatory process - would seem to undermine their recurrent complaint that police fail to act on what they claim to be “good” evidence.
The review also supports the testimony of officers, who told the academics that anti-hunt campaigners often refuse to engage with police, claiming that “they have the evidence but won’t give it to us”.
Only later do the activists “post on social media saying [the police] haven’t done anything”.
Academics also cite incidents of police being called-out to an alleged “illegal hunt” which had been reported, only for the case to be closed “with the stated rationale being no suggestion of any disorder”.
Nor do the academics advocate the issue of hunting be given greater policing priority. The report states that there are “serious cost implications” that come from training police forces to handle hunting-related crimes.
After surveying the local population, the resounding response from the residents of North Wales was that they wanted resources to be directed instead to protecting “children and vulnerable people”.
Tim Bonner, Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance said: “This report exposes what many within the rural community have known for some time in that there is an organised attempt among anti-hunt groups to create a false impression that hunts are not operating legally. Activists regularly make false allegations and provide unreliable and fraudulent evidence to back their claims. This obsession with attacking hunts has serious consequences for everyone who relies on the police and the criminal justice system. A small but vocal minority of anti-hunt activists are wasting police time on a systematic basis and compromising the ability of officers to tackle real crime”.
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This news story was covered by the Sunday Telegraph, a copy of which can be found here.