Police are being urged to enforce laws stripping protestors of balaclavas, in a bid to help protect hunt followers.
Countryside Alliance chairman Sir Barney White-Spunner has written to the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), following serious assaults at a Badsworth and Bramham Moor meet and the High Peak kennels.
“We at the Countryside Alliance are increasingly concerned about attacks on hunt supporters and staff by people wearing balaclavas and face coverings to avoid detection,” said Sir Barney in his letter to ACPO president, Sir Hugh Orde.
“We ask you please to write to police forces across the country, reminding officers of their powers under Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 [the power to remove disguises].”
In October last year, Badsworth and Bramham Moor hunt supporter and landowner Charles Warde-Aldam was repeatedly hit on the head with a heavy torch.
Although the assault was filmed, his attackers were wearing masks and therefore could not be identified.
In a similar attack, two masked assailants clubbed and kicked High Peak huntsman Nigel Cox at his kennels in December.
No one has been charged over either incident.
There is currently a discrepancy in different parts of the country as to how the police enforce Section 60AA. Crawley and Horsham senior master Antony Sandeman told H&H he believes Sussex is “a soft target”, drawing sabs in balaclavas from many areas because they know the police will not challenge them.
“Surrey Police [the neighbouring force] do enforce Section 60, but Sussex won’t unless there’s a direct threat of violence,” said Mr Sandeman.
“I hope this letter will do some good, but I feel like we’re banging our heads against a brick wall. It’s all down to the chief constable, and if he doesn’t want to enforce it we’ve got no chance.”
This news story was first published in Horse & Hound magazine (9 May 2013)