The Countryside Alliance has slammed animal rights activists, who last week received substantial compensation from police after they were “wrongfully arrested” while out with the Meynell and South Staffordshire hunt.

A lawyer for 11 anti-hunt protestors negotiated an out-of-court settlement of £38,300 with Derbyshire police over an incident in January 2008.

The protestors denied breaking any laws when they were arrested, handcuffed and held in custody overnight.

Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin last week confirmed the payout, and that the force had agreed to destroy any protestors’ fingerprints, DNA or photographs.

He said in a statement: “The force and individual officers will learn from this mistake.”

But CA spokesman Tim Bonner said the protestors’ behaviour was in stark contrast to those arrested wrongfully within the hunting community.

“This money comes out of the public purse — the hunting community doesn’t penalise the taxpayer for mistakes the police make, whereas animal rights activists are in it for what they can get,” he said.

Maurice Scott, joint master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, told H&H that claiming for compensation didn’t cross his mind after his arrest two years ago, aged 63.

“We have a good relationship with the police, and we have to live with them,” he said. “The hunting community behaves in a completely different way.”

Mr Bonner added that the action is bound to have an impact on the way police officers deal with the disruption of hunting activities.

But a spokesman for Derbyshire police denied the payout would have any impact, saying: “We will continue to police hunts as and when we can.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (17 September, ’09)