‘Don’t believe all you see on Facebook’: police warning over anti-hunting posts

Information posted on social media about hunting is often inaccurate, incomplete and “does not reflect the full scenario”, a police force has warned.

Cheshire Police has set out its stance on hunting in a statement, promising that it “will pursue with equal vigour those who engage in unlawful hunting, and other associated offences, and those who engage in illegal activity to prevent hunting”.

The statement comes after sabs in the county posted videos and pictures, which they claimed showed evidence of illegal actions of hunt supporters, on social media.

Cheshire Police said it hopes its statement provides “clear and unequivocal expression, to all those who participate in, and protest against, hunting, of our independent and impartial operational stance”.

“Our operational response to hunting is based on advice from the national police chief lead, which recognises that ‘hunting with hounds is an emotive subject, bringing with it support, opposition and commentary from a wide spectrum of society, amplified by social media in this modern policing world’,” the statement reads.

“We acknowledge the provisions of the Hunting Act 2004 which legitimise certain types of hunting.

“We acknowledge, in equal measure, that those who are opposed to hunting have the right to protest.”

It adds that for years, the force has “worked hard” to engage with hunt supporters and “those who seek to protest”, and that it offers consultation events for all parties before each season starts.

“Like all police forces in whose areas there are hunts, we tread a fine line between protecting these contrasting rights,” the statement says.

“We do not, and will not, take sides. We aim to maximise public safety, to facilitate lawful protest, to minimise disruption to our communities, and to provide an appropriate operational and investigative response to reports of unlawful activity.”

Police presence

Officers at organised trail hunts during the season have detailed knowledge of the Hunting Act and other laws, and can “determine whether offences have been committed”.

“We are fully committed to investigate and, where evidence exists, to bring to justice any person found breaking the law,” the force added. “This is a complex piece of legislation and many facets need to be evidenced for the complete offence to be proved. This can be extremely challenging.”

To be able to investigate and bring any criminal charges, police rely on witnesses willing to give signed statements and attend court. Anyone who films alleged wrongdoing must provide a signed statement “exhibiting that evidence in unedited form”.

Cheshire Police said it has found people are often “reluctant” to engage with investigations, and that without witness statements and evidence, it is “incredibly difficult” to take action.

“Any video footage needs to be properly accounted for by the person who filmed it for it to be admissible in court,” the statement says.

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“We recognise that much discussion, comment and posting of digital material around hunting takes place on social media. Many comments are based on inaccurate information that do not reflect a balanced view of the matters discussed. Frequently, video footage does not reflect the full scenario.

“We endeavour to update the public on allegations arising from hunt activities, and we will respond to concerns through social media where it is appropriate to do so.

“We are proud of our approach to hunting, and we remain committed to ensuring that we meet our duty to protect our communities and to keep the public safe throughout the season.”

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