The 2004 Hunting Act has muddied the waters sufficiently to make the life of a hunt servant somewhat challenging. The stupidities of the Act are manifest. It makes it an offence to hunt a mouse with a dog, but not a rat; you can legally hunt a rabbit but not a hare. You can flush a fox to guns with two dogs, but if you use three you commit an offence. A fox can be flushed to a bird of prey with as many dogs as you wish.
Most of us make use of the exemptions in the Act as well as following an artificially laid line. I have noted beforehand the ease with which one can be falsely implicated in breaking the law; recently, it became my turn. Hounds caught two foxes on a day’s hunting, and I was arrested and questioned for “hunting a wild mammal with dogs”.
Why, I pondered, after 11 years and around 1,000 days of trouble-free post-ban hunting, was there this unusual reaction to such an unsurprising, albeit unfortunate, occurrence?
Some time ago the old police authority — made up of two-thirds elected members of county or borough councils, and one-third magistrates — was scrapped in favour of the new elected position of Police Crime Commissioner (PCC). The idea was to create a system whereby the electorate could choose someone; in practice, the new £70,000 role seems to have become one last trough for Z-list politicos should Ant and Dec fail to come a’knocking.
On the day in question we had a visit from our new PCC, former shadow attorney-general Lord “Willy” Bach, and also several police cars and, to complete an amazing coincidence, a van-load of “hunt saboteurs”. “Efficient use of public money is vital,” Lord Bach had stated in his job application.
At the opening meet this year we had four police cars and at least eight policemen present, despite no complaints from the public and zero offences being committed. This has been the case for most Leicestershire packs. How can the expense be justified?
I am not for a moment suggesting anyone is above the law, but the law is so open to abuse by malicious accusations from a small, dedicated group of opponents. How, one wonders, can Lord Bach warrant such pointless expense while real crime goes uninvestigated?
My arrest, despite proof that only a few hounds were present on both occasions and that both incidents were accidental, was beyond parody. I would have quite happily gone to Leicester nick to explain the circumstances of the incident; instead, it was apparently a better use of public funds to send a riot van, two police cars and nine officers to perform an arrest.
Unfortunately I was out for the day shooting and none of our grooms knew where. The police proceeded to follow them for several miles while they exercised the hunt horses. Perhaps they thought I would leap out of the woods, spring aboard like Rob Roy, and make for the border?
I returned and was arrested “by appointment”, thus saving the taxpayer further expense. While flattered to be considered so predominant in the world of Leicestershire malefactors, there was no need for warrants and no need for an arrest. The whole sorry saga was an abuse of process, time and police resources. Use your vote.
Ref Horse & Hound; 26 January 2017