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Documents leaked to Sunday’s Observer newspaper have further revealed the extent of police confusion surrouding how to enforce a ban on hunting, as well as emphasising that dealing with hunts is to be a low priority for police officers.

Home Office Minister Charles Clarke confirmed this suspicion yesterday in a television interview saying that he did not “expect foxhunting to be very high on the priorities of any police force”.

However, other concerns voiced in documents seen by the Observer include the belief that forces could ultimately be weakened by the fact that some officers are members of their local hunts, which would undermine their “policing style”, and that tension could lead to serious civil unrest.

Potentially violent hunts are to be categorised in the same way as football matches by the Avon and Somerset police, it was claimed, with provision for riot police to be called in. This indicates that although police are not choosing to necessarily arrest people breaking the hunting act, some officers are preparing for some serious clashes between animal rights activists and people either hunting, or exercising hounds.

“…the ban’s impact may cause greater public disorder, which will have a much higher priority than hunting offences per se,” the police memo was quoted as saying.

The Countryside Alliance has said it believes the unworkable nature of this Act will become clear if it comes into force on Thursday, as a result of the CA’s High Court Appeal being thrown out.

“From today’s reports it is quite clear that the police, at both the local and national level, are seriously concerned about the implications of implementing the Hunting Act on their relationships with local communities,” said Simon Hart today. “The Act threatens to destroy the trust and mutual respect which allows small numbers of policemen to police huge areas of rural Britain. Without co-operation rural policing cannot work.

“The definitions of legal and illegal hunting are so blurred that the police are being asked to make impossible judgements. You can hunt a rat, but not a mouse; a rabbit, but not a hare; an artificial scent, but not a real one,” he added.

One site where clashes have already begun is at what is set to be the final Waterloo Cup, the largest hare coursing event in the country, which is taking place today, Tuesday and Wednesday at Altcar in Merseyside. At 2pm today the BBC was already reporting that a number of coursing enthusiasts had been arrested as pro-hunt people clashed with police officers, and anti-hunt protestors.

For details of hunts’ plans after a ban click here.