THE REAL CRIMINALS
A Briefing Paper on the new offence of aggravated trespass in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill
Left: Spot the criminal - a saboteur cradles a fox rescued from the Hampshire Hunt;
Right: Hunt Master Allan Wynn punches a saboteur to the ground at the Vale of Aylesbury Hunt
This was originally written in April 1994 as a briefing paper for Members of Parliament and the press, setting out our opposition to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill which was to become Criminal Justice and Public Order Act in November of that year. This means that some sections of the Act have changed since this was first written, so it should not be taken as a legal briefing on the Act as it is now. We have put this on the Web to demonstrate how badly flawed the legislation is and set out the arguments against it rather than provide a completely accurate guide to the Act as it is now. The arguments still hold, even if the act has been amended since they were written.
As long as there are bloodsports there will be hunt saboteurs.
- Who Are The Hunt Saboteurs?
- Lies, Damn Lies and the BFSS
- "Thugs, Wreckers and Bullies":Who Are the Real Hunt Hooligans?
- Unworkable, Undemocratic, and Unwanted: public opposition to the bill
- Law and Order: Implications for the Police
- Appendix 1: Commentary On the Bill
- Appendix 2: Hunting Criminals
To read some of the rubbish printed about hunt saboteurs every season it would be easy to believe we are a cross between the IRA and a particularly vicious gang of joyriders. In fact, we are ordinary people from all across the social spectrum who have one thing in common - the belief that killing animals for fun is wrong and the commitment to try and stop it.
Saboteurs come from all walks of life - one group even boasts a 66-year old church minister among its ranks - and all classes. A survey of HSA members in 1993 found that contrary to popular opinion, only 15% of our members were unemployed, which is a considerably better ratio than in some of Britain's cities. The survey also reflected a broad spread of political opinions, with a spread of supporters of all three major political parties plus a good few Greens. Hardly the stuff of which class war thugs are made.
The Hunt Saboteurs Association serves as an umbrella for some 150 active local groups nationwide. Each of the local groups is autonomous in both policy and funding, although we share a common set of principles and the HSA will help out local groups where it can. Most groups are out saving lives at least once a week, although some will be out more often than that.
So what do we do that excites so much upset? Basically, saboteurs use non-violent tactics to intervene at hunts in an attempt to save the hunted quarry. A successful hunt depends on communication between the huntsman and his hounds by voice and horn calls the hounds are trained to respond to. We use these calls against the hunt to take the hounds away from the hunted animal, so providing it with a little extra time or, more often, enabling it to get away completely. Another popular tactic is the use of scent dullers to mask the scent of the hunted animal and so frustrate the hunt's attempts to find or follow it. Obviously, it's not as simple as that - the permutations arising from scenting conditions, wind direction, access to the area and pure chance are many and various and all have to be taken into account to effectively save an animal's life. A good saboteur will often know as much about hunting as many hunt followers and considerably more than a lot of them!
Quite simply, to save animals from a horrifyingly cruel death. In the long term, it is undoubtedly true that the only real answer to hunting is it's abolition by legislation. There has been an overwhelming case against hunting for many years and opinion polls have shown time and again the massive public support for a ban on hunting, but still parliament has not responded. While we wait for parliament to recognise its responsibilities, many thousands of animals will suffer and die unnecessarily in the name of sport. Hunt saboteurs plug this gap by intervening to save hundreds of animals every season. The possibility of a ban in five or ten years time is not much comfort to a fox that will be torn apart this Saturday - a saboteur running off with the hounds to let it escape definitely is.
About This Paper
We believe that the provisions to criminalise hunt saboteurs contained in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill are fundamentally flawed from every conceivable point of view: in their motivation, conception and drafting; in their effect on public order and civil liberties; and in the way they are manifestly out of step with public opinion and common sense.
This paper is divided into several chapters setting out the arguments against Sections 68 and 69 from many different aspects. They show these sections are based on ignorance and incompetence and were they to be passed they would be a disaster for the rule of law and a triumph for vested interests and prejudice. What they will not do is stop people from caring about animals.
The Home Office have no data on violent incidents at hunts, no figures to indicate how many saboteurs attend hunt meets or indeed any substantial information on hunting at all. In the absence of any actual knowledge of the topic, Michael Howard has instead relied on the smears and propaganda disseminated by the British Field Sports Society, often quoting their disinformation verbatim. For this reason, it is important that the truth behind the BFSS' campaign of lies and smears directed against saboteurs is exposed for what it really is: a cynical exercise in deliberately misleading MPs, the media and the public carried out by desperate men who are themselves up to the neck in acts of violence.
The main thrust of these smears has been presented in four BFSS pamphlets - The Unacceptable Face of Protest, The Real Animals, Disruption of Shooting, and Disruption of Angling - all high on presentation, low on content and devoid of truth. These pamphlets use a variety of tricks from distortion and misrepresentation to downright lies to twist the facts. Their so-called "proof" consists of lurid tales which are so vague as to be virtually unverifiable. We have however, managed to check on some of them and in those cases have found the accusations to be either manifestly untrue or badly misleading.
If in Doubt, Blame the Saboteurs
Many of the incidents detailed in The Real Animals as "evidence" of the cruelty of saboteurs were roundly condemned by saboteurs and are known to be unconnected to animal rights. There were even attempts during 1993 to blame the horrific series of sexual assaults on horses on hunt saboteurs, when these acts were quite clearly the work of a deranged pervert. It is an indication of the BFSS' deceit and sheer desperation that, in the absence of real evidence against saboteurs, they attempt to sneak attacks entirely unconnected to saboteurs into a pamphlet attacking us (see boxed table below). They are careful not to attribute blame directly to saboteurs for such incidents and hope no-one will notice that someone else is responsible. Another common tactic is to blame saboteurs for incidents that have taken place, but which the hunt is to blame for, as when they lose control of their hounds.
The hunting community are hardy folk and will not be deterred by as simple a problem as not having any evidence to back up their accusations. In the absence of any proof that saboteurs are the bastard offspring of Saddam Hussein and the Devil, they simply manufacture it.
In February 1994, the Hursley Hambledon Foxhunt was the subject of a protest by a female-only group of saboteurs after a series of nasty incidents of sexual harassment directed at a local saboteur. These include one particularly serious attack, when a six-strong gang of hunt supporters attempted to drag her into woodland, boasting loudly that they were going to gang-rape her. The BFSS ignored the would-be rapists in their own camp and issued a press release accusing the woman in question of being a violent troublemaker, with convictions for assault. In fact she has no criminal record at all, but the tactic of lying to defame the good character of victims will be familiar to many women involved in cases of sexual assault.
The Unacceptable Face of Protest contains many photographs which supposedly "prove" that saboteurs are violent thugs. In fact the majority of them show little more than groups of protesters standing around looking more lost than threatening. One photo purports to show a hunt supporter lying on the ground being kicked by two saboteurs at the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Foxhunt, one of the most violent hunts in the country. What it actually shows is two sets of legs kicking a torso - any faces or identifying features have carefully been cropped from the picture. No such attack ever took place by saboteurs.
In June 1990, hunt supporter Alan Newberry-Street gained much valuable anti-saboteur publicity when a nail-bomb was found under his Land Rover. Further investigation revealed that he had planted the bomb himself and he later told police "I did it to discredit the animal rights saboteurs". He was jailed for nine months for his bomb hoax and asked for several other similar offences to be taken into account.
The Real Animals alleges "In 1988 furniture polish was sprayed at a hound's face in Wales." This story first appeared in the Daily Telegraph which later printed a full retraction and apology as the story was entirely untrue. The paper claimed in its defence that it had been deceived by the hunt in question.
Whips and Sprays
The Real Animals includes a cutting from Howl (the HSA magazine) which shows how to make a whip and then goes on to say that "hounds and horses are thrashed with home-made whips". In fact, whips are used by saboteurs for exactly the purpose they are supposed to be used by huntsmen - for cracking in front of a hound in order to stop it pursuing the line of a hunted animal, a signal hounds are trained to respond to. It is explicitly stated by the HSA that in no circumstances should a whip ever be used to strike an animal. This is in sharp contrast to Michael Clayton, editor of Horse & Hound who describes training hounds thus:
"One sign of even slightly belligerent interest in sheep by a single hound is immediately punished by a sharp telling-off at the least or a whipping."
The way hunters use their whips
The sprays carried by saboteurs usually contain citronella oil, a harmless lemon-scented product, sold by chemists to be applied to the skin in order to ward off insects. It is also one of the major constituent ingredients of Anti-Mate, a petcare product manufactured by Bob Martin's which is sprayed on the hindquarters of bitches in season to mask their scent and so ward off the unwanted attention of male dogs. It is obvious that such a product cannot possibly be harmful to hounds. The Real Animals asserts that one such spray was sent to a chemical laboratory for chemical analysis raises some interesting questions. We have no doubt that the substance sent in for examination was indeed toxic. We do
I. Lies, Damn Lies and the BFSS
not believe for a minute that it came from saboteurs - the lab was asked to test the substance's toxicity not where it came from. Any fool can send a substance to an independent lab. It appears that some fools hope this independence will back up the other half of their claim.
The Truth of the Matter
The simple fact is that saboteurs care enough about animals to risk their own safety in order to protect them from the horrific cruelty of hunting. The majority are vegetarian and many are vegan. It is ludicrous to suggest that we would do anything which could inflict injury on any animal. The HSA believes that hounds, horses and terriers are as much victims of the cruelty of hunting as the quarry species as the number of hunt supporters prosecuted each year for cruelty to their own animals and others testifies (see table).
|The Claims||The Facts|
|"A hound was beaten to death in Wales with a hammer in November 1993."||This was a vicious attack which both the HSA and saboteurs everywhere condemned as an act of senseless cruelty, carried out by an obviously deranged individual. She is not a hunt saboteur nor is she known to have any connection with animal rights.|
|"One hound was stolen from a Buckinghamshire hunt on New Year's Day 1994."||This tale first surfaced in a local paper some five days after the alleged theft. Saboteurs were present on the day, but there is no evidence that any such incident too place involving saboteurs or any anti-hunt protesters. The police are investigating the hunt's allegations but to date have not questioned any saboteurs.|
|"Saboteurs have attacked or caused injury to horses and hounds, giving the lie to their claim to be animal lovers"||Old Surrey & Burstow Hunt, January 1994. Three saboteurs driving home after the hunt spotted a hunt official thrashing his horse to get it in a horsebox. They stopped to take photographs and the huntsman attacked them with a hammer. The female saboteur held his horse to prevent it bolting down the road in terror as its master went berserk. Her compassion resulted in her receiving similar serious head wounds to those of her friends.|
|Spooners & West Dartmoor Foxhunt, March 1992. Hounds ran riot across the A386 nr. Yelverton. Only prompt intervention by saboteurs saved both hounds and members of the public from injury. Unusually, the hunt did not try to blame saboteurs for their hounds being their in the first place. Hunt Master Charles Doughty said "The saboteurs could not have been nicer... [They] blew their horns beautifully to get the hounds out of danger and back to us."|
|Vale of Aylesbury Foxhunt, 1993. Alan Hill, Hunt Master, convicted in March of cruelty after Amersham Magistrates heard he and another hunter had beaten his horse some forty times to dislodge it when it became stuck on a gate. The conviction was overturned on appeal after a fellow hunter gave evidence that this is an acceptable way to treat a terrified animal. Hunters may think so, we do not.|
|New Forest Foxhunt, September 1991. Terrierman Garran Green convicted of causing cruelty to his own terrier after forcing it to re-enter a fox earth when it was already badly injured. A video showed its muzzle streaming with blood.|
|"Saboteurs recklessly draw hounds onto busy roads... On other occasions, hounds are drawn onto railway lines"||January 1991, Faringdon, Oxon. The Old Berkshire Foxhunt ran out of control onto an InterCity line as hounds chased a fox into the path of an oncoming train. Fortunately, no passengers were injured but tragically several hounds were killed. The incident was witnessed and photographed by saboteurs who the hunt then attempted to blame for their own stupidity.|
|July 1992, Wiltshire. The Avon Vale Foxhunt lost control of their hounds on a busy road and a hound was killed. No saboteurs were present, yet in order to evade responsibility for yet another act of recklessness, they accused a saboteur of calling the hound into the road. He was over 15 miles away at the time.|
One of the oldest and hoariest chestnuts in the hunting world is the "£25 a day and a packed lunch" supposedly offered by shadowy militants to recruit fresh-faced students or sinister urban hordes into an unruly rent-a-mob. This story has been around for some 20 years, but never yet been backed up. When challenged for more details, hunters prove remarkably reticent. For example, the fantasy of "a recruiting poster, recovered from a campus, [which] offered payment of £30 a day plus lunch" was never substantiated with any details - for example, which university was involved would seem to be a fairly basic detail. Saboteurs have frequently challenged hunters to publicly name names but strangely the challenge has never been taken up (something to do with libel perhaps?).
In 1990, Horse and Hound asserted that only one hunt reported saboteur activity on March 31st and concluded that this was because all the saboteurs were at the poll tax riots. In fact, it has a lot more to do with the fact that virtually every hunt in the country had finished their season in mid-March - even the most dedicated "militant" would be hard-pushed to sabotage a hunt that isn't there! For the record, saboteurs were present at at least half a dozen hunts that day.
There's no News Like Old News
The BFSS pamphlets are littered with press clippings to support their case. Almost all are over 10 years old, harking back to a time when the press would print almost anything about saboteurs, true or not. In part, this can be said to be saboteurs' own fault for not making enough effort in the past to talk to the media and explain the facts behind the hunters' wild allegations. Some sections of the media have not much improved, but in recent years many have begun to realise there are two sides to these stories as saboteurs have made more effort to put their case.
The BFSS hark back to these glory days when hunts could shovel out any old drivel and it would be believed (it still works at the Home Office!) and so quote old inaccuracies profusely. A fine example is provided by the Liverpool Echo story of 1981 concerning vandals strewing the coursing fields of the Waterloo Cup with glass and nails. This is obviously an act of irresponsible lunacy and it is not known who carried it out , but in the absence of any evidence as to who was responsible the Echo decided to blame an unknown group of "saboteurs". After all, if challenged by the local group or indeed any specific group, they could always claim they meant some other group of saboteurs. Such stories have a lot more to do with lazy journalism than saboteur atrocities, with the term saboteur often used as a catch-all description to describe any anti-hunt activity, no matter what its nature and no matter whether saboteurs were involved or not.
Much of the propaganda churned out by the BFSS is kept deliberately vague or relies solely on the word of deeply prejudiced witnesses so that it cannot be confirmed or denied either way. Despite the horrific tales, further investigation often reveals that no witnesses can be found, no complaint has been made to the police and in many cases that no saboteurs were actually there. The supposed incident in November 1993 when thuderflashes were used to scare horses and hounds did not, to the best of our knowledge, take place. Certainly no saboteurs were involved, although it is difficult to say what exactly the truth of the allegation is as it is an unverifiable assertion. In Disruption of Shooting we are told "In September 1993 a labrador was kicked at a shoot in Lancashire". If such an event took place, we condemn it unreservedly. But it is one of a type of very useful allegations in that it is attributed to no-one and cannot be proved either way, other than on the word of one unreliable witness. Hunters frequently fling vague accusations of this type, careful not to name individuals or specific groups. More cynical is the allegation first printed in the Anglers' Mail, hardly known for its calm objectivity on such matters, and reprinted in Disruption of Angling. A horrifying tale is told of a 12-year old boy and a disabled man being bullied by yobs who it is assumed are saboteurs. We have carried out extensive enquiries into this allegation and have found there were no saboteurs in the area. This is one of the anecdotes the Home Secretary used to justify his bill: it is exceptionally doubtful whether it ever took place.
Much of this wouldn't normally matter: hunts are well-known for churning out drivel and most MP's and journalists are bright enough to see through it. Unfortunately, the Home Secretary is a bit more credulous. So much so that he has brought in new legislation based entirely on the sort of lies we have exposed in this chapter.
Michael Howard and various Tory MP's have gone to great lengths in speeches on the topic to blacken the name of saboteurs. In so doing they have succeeded primarily in revealing their own ignorance of the topic. As highlighted in the previous chapter, the claims put out by the hunting community bear little relation to the real world where saboteurs are all too frequently the victims of serious assaults. We do not claim to have a comprehensive listing of every attack on saboteurs or every arrest on either side - quite simply, attacks on saboteurs are now so commonplace that our members frequently do not bother to report them anymore, even to us - however, we know that we are significantly better-informed than the Home Secretary and his cronies.
"From now on, we are going to start hunting the saboteurs"
So said Nick Herbert, parliamentary adviser to the British Field Sports Society, to herald the introduction of a campaign to use "stewards" to "deter" saboteurs. The sinister overtones of Mr Herbert's threat quickly became reality as everywhere stewards were introduced, massive violence and intimidation followed. The use of stewards was widely recognised as being a major factor in making 1992-93 one of the most violent seasons ever. In Essex, a saboteur was kicked unconscious, another sustained a broken wrist. In Northumbria, female saboteurs were dragged out of fields by their hair and one had sheep excrement forced down her throat by a two male stewards pinning her to the ground. In Yorkshire, female saboteurs were sexually assaulted. In Oxfordshire, a saboteur was pushed in front of a moving vehicle by a steward with a violent criminal record. One firm of stewards which kits its employees out in paramilitary brownshirts was severely embarrassed when Dorking police confiscated a minor arsenal of weapons from one of their vehicles, including cudgels, snooker cues, chains and lead piping.
Contrary to the impression given by some members of the media and government, the overwhelming majority of violent incidents at hunts are committed by hunt members against saboteurs, or indeed anyone else who gets in their way, as John Weavers found out in 1990. Mr Weavers is an ordinary member of the public who was quietly sitting at home one Saturday afternoon when the Cury Foxhunt rampaged through his property. When he asked them to leave and complained at the damage caused he was headbutted by Geoffrey Thomas, master of the hunt, who then shunted one of Mr Weavers' cars into another.
Members of the hunting community frequently commit serious crimes of violence against protesters for which they are infrequently prosecuted. In the first 3 months of 1993 alone, some 75 saboteurs were victims of violent attacks by hunts, 13 of them requiring hospital attention as a result. The most common forms of attack include beating with staves, spades and other weapons, whipping and beating with riding crops, and riding horses at and over saboteurs. There has also been an alarming rise in the use of vehicles as weapons despite the deaths of two saboteurs in recent years under the wheels of hunt vehicles.
One of many victims of hunt violence
The graph at the end of this chapter gives a breakdown of the number and type of incidents logged in the first three months of 1993. It should be noted that we have only catalogued the more serious incidents - the everyday abuse, threats, kicks, punches and other assaults are now so commonplace that saboteurs frequently don't even bother to tell the HSA about them. Unfortunately the picture outlined in the graph is all too common. The 1993-94 season was no better and saw saboteurs kicked, beaten, ridden at, threatened with knives and shotguns, throttled, knocked unconscious and sexually assaulted in a range of attacks all across the country.
All the information and data contained in this chapter is entirely unknown to the Home Secretary despite repeated attempts to make the Home Office aware of the true facts. Mr Howard is clearly not interested in any point of view that conflicts with the picture painted by his "reliable" friends at the BFSS.
There is a very real problem of violence at hunts - it is overwhelmingly directed against our members as the flood of saboteurs going to hospital every season demonstrates. We would be more than happy to see serious action genuinely aimed at stemming this tide of violence by implementing existing public order legislation.
|Samples of Hunt Violence 1993-94|
|October 1993 Cheshire Foxhunt Saboteurs attacked by hunt stewards with sticks. One saboteur taken to hospital with head wounds.|
|November 1993 Vale of Lune Harriers Three saboteurs treated at Lancaster Infirmary for head injuries after sustained attack by mounted and foot supporters attack with staves, riding crops and whips.|
|December 1993 Chiddingfold, Leconfield & Cowdray FoxhuntSaboteur left lying semi-conscious in a ditch after being attacked by thugs boasting they have been recruited from Billingsgate market to "sort out the antis"|
|January 1994 South Dorset Foxhunt Hunt supporters try to bundle two saboteurs into a vehicle. They escape and the car is driven at them at high speed by the hunt thugs who then leap out and beat them severely about the head and body, leaving them with multiple injuries for which they require hospital treatment.|
|February 1994 Hursley Hambledon Foxhunt Female saboteur attacked by hunt thugs who grab her breasts and try to stub lighted cigarette out on her face. She has previously been threatened with gang rape by supporters of this hunt.|
|March 1994 Four Burrow Foxhunt Saboteur spends five days in hospital after whipper-in rides his horse over his head and body repeatedly, causing massive internal injuries and fractured ribs.|
Does Mr Howard Know What He's Doing?
It is generally accepted practice when introducing new legislation, particularly in an area such as hunting where the Home Office has no expertise and scant knowledge, that outside parties affected by proposed legislation or concerned with the implementation are consulted in order to take account of all relevant factors. Exceptionally, the Home Office have chosen in this instance to consult only one side - the British Field Sports Society - and appear to have swallowed their propaganda whole. As shown in Chapter 1 this information is more than seriously flawed - it is badly misleading and in many instances consists of little more than lies and concoctions. Inevitably, any pressure group will produce propaganda as well as fact to back its case, but it is the job of the Home Office in producing sensible legislation to ensure they are able to differentiate fact from fiction by gathering data and views from the widest possible sources. In this instance, they have remarkably chosen to stitch up a deal with the hunting lobby. In answer to questions laid in the Commons on March 2nd, David Maclean, Home Office Minister, admitted that there has been no research done on the subject, no consultation and no attempt to get the true picture. He admitted that all he and his colleagues know about hunts and saboteurs is what they have been told in "informal discussions" with the BFSS, Master of Foxhounds Association and "various fieldsports organisations". This amounts to an astonishing admission of shoddy backroom deals and the fact that both officials of the Home Office and the Secretary of State are seriously misinformed on all matters of substance contained in this bill. How many ordinary citizens would be happy to find civil servants acting as a subsidiary arm of the hunting lobby and dancing entirely to their tune?
It is perhaps instructive to compare Mr Howard's eagerness to act against hunt saboteurs, a topic which he and his civil servants know nothing about, with his tardiness in dealing with racial attacks. This is an issue on which the Home Office does have substantial data indicating a very real and worrying threat - even it's own figures indicate that racial violence is a serious menace, running at levels some 16 times greater than had previously been estimated. Yet Michael Howard feels no new legislation is needed. What are we to think when a Home Secretary shrugs his shoulders at young Asians being stabbed to death by Nazis on our streets, yet springs into action when the Englishman's inalienable right to kill small animals comes under threat? The more cynical may perhaps conclude that foxhunters have more powerful friends than ethnic minorities.
Nazi foxhunter - a Home Office favourite.
Threats to Legitimate Protest
It is quite apparent that this bill will have a serious impact on the British public's hard-won freedom to protest against that with which we do not agree. Sections 68-69 are being heralded as a method of combating large groups of hooligans descending upon decent country folk going about their lawful business of transforming small animals into their constituent parts. In fact they will effectively outlaw many forms of protest, whether violent or not. Within the anti-hunt field the League Against Cruel Sports has been able to produce much evidence of hunts' wrongdoing, trespass on private property, illegal bloodsports etc. by the use of covert undercover investigators and overt hunt monitors who follow hunts with cameras and videos to record their actions. Such activities could result in a jail sentence in the future, allowing hunts to carry out abuses unchecked.
Environmental groups are also concerned about the impact of the bill on legitimate protests carried out by ordinary people who are members of mainstream organisations. The World Wide Fund for Nature says "This bill is flawed in that it aims to remove the right of peaceful protest", while the Council for the Protection of Rural England says "We would be concerned about any measures that would restrict opportunities for the public to express their opposition to activities that threaten the environment, such as new roads construction.". Liberty is also concerned that the bill could have broad and serious implications for those who seek to make a legitimate peaceful protest. One barrister consulted by the HSA described this bill as "the most draconian legislation ever applied to mainland Britain", another commented that it was "an attempt to make a broad extension of the scope of criminal law by the back door".
The bill is so badly drafted and so widely phrased (see Appendix 1) that it will catch virtually any protest in its broad net. We have no objection to a clampdown on those who commit offences of violence and intimidation at hunts as we believe such a clampdown, if impartially applied, would make no difference to hunt saboteurs but would result in large numbers of huntsmen being arrested. The mechanism for such a clampdown already exists, as it is already an offence under current public order legislation to intimidate someone or use violence. Impartial enforcement of this existing legislation is to be welcomed, shoddy measures designed to curry favour with vested interests and restrictions on democratic freedoms are an attack not just on hunt saboteurs but on all who believe in an open society.
What's Sauce for the Goose....
One of the more obnoxious aspects of sections 68-69 is their obviously partial nature. Despite the plaintive claims that the bill will apply equally to all, and the great pains the Home Office have gone to not to mention either hunts or saboteurs in the bill for fear of someone guessing who they're doing a favour for, a more obvious piece of gerrymandering and back-slapping is hard to imagine. Whilst the alleged and largely anecdotal misdemeanours of hunt saboteurs are to be stamped on from a great height the many hundreds of incidents of hunters trespassing on private property, causing accidents, attacking domestic pets and livestock, etc. are to go unpunished. Illegal hare coursing is a far more of a problem for many farmers and landowners than hunt saboteurs (and the people involved far more violent), yet there are no new measures to tackle the police's balefully inadequate powers to deal with this grotesque offence. Apparently while the Home Office feels that saving an animal's life should be an imprisonable offence, it is quite acceptable to:
- Allow hounds to run riot through private gardens, killing ducks and chickens (Plaistow, West Sussex; November 1992; Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Hunt);
- Lose control of hounds, resulting in them running along a main railway line a few hundred yards in front of an oncoming train (December 1993, Old Surrey and Burstow Hunt);
- Set hounds onto a tame fox kept in a private garden as a domestic pet (December 1993, Tedworth Hunt).
What the Public Think
Even if the Home Office are happy to produce such seriously lop-sided legislation, they should surely be concerned with the views of the public at large. The Government, after all, are supposed to represent the people, and the Home Office, nominally, are public servants. It would appear that, in the dash to please the BFSS, these considerations have also been ignored. To the best of anyone's knowledge there has been no attempt to ascertain the views of the public by the Home Office.
In those surveys that have been carried out, the overwhelming majority of the public, in all sections of society, have been in favour of a ban on hunting. The most recent survey showed some 80% in favour of an immediate ban. Far from this groundswell of public opinion consisting of Moscow-inspired townies as the hunting lobby would have us believe, more detailed figures show that nearly 70% of Conservative voters, some 84% of Liberal Democrat voters, and roughly 65% of rural inhabitants would support an immediate ban on hunting. This is considerably more of a mandate than that received by any government in recent history.
For those who consider polls an unreliable barometer of public opinion, it is worth noting that over 150 local authorities have now banned hunting on their land. The majority of County Councils have now banned hunting, including Devon, Somerset, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Leicestershire, supposedly the "home" of hunting.
We do not seek to suggest that all those who are anti-hunt necessarily support hunt saboteurs, but it is nonetheless self-evident that the ordinary person will look aghast at legislation that seeks to outlaw those who save animals while further protecting those who kill for fun. We have never had such a large post bag on any topic - we have been quite literally overwhelmed by the response from the public. Local groups handing out leaflets and setting up stalls etc. have similarly reported a massive surge of support, even from those who previously had little time for saboteurs. It is just a shame that the government no longer seems to regard it as part of its mandate to listen to those who elected them. These are just a sample of the letters we have received from the very many ordinary people who have been incensed by Michael Howard's proposals.
"you are quite right in stating that anti-hunt people come from all walks of life. I myself am a 31 year old mother of two who works full time in the civil service....I have written to my MP for the first time in my life, and it was your letter and my anger at the hypocrisy [of the government] which drove me to do this..." (Mrs G.B., Rossendale, Lancs.)
"I have always been in awe of those who protect those who are helpless and cannot speak or campaign for themselves and are victims of, as you rightly put it, the sadistic minority....I am horrified to read of Michael Howard's proposals..." (Ms L.H-G., Manchester)
"If the military started firing their weapons across highways or public property there would be an outcry, and yet these idiots [hunters] are allowed to trespass on private land and cause dangerous motoring accidents..." (Mr R.N.B., Worksop, Notts.)
"I am writing on behalf of my husband and myself to give support for a ban on hunting not hunt saboteurs....it is the hunters who are committing the offence as opposed to the saboteurs who are trying to protect the innocent..." (Mrs C.D., Peacehaven, E Sussex)
"I wish to pledge my full support for your struggle against bloodsports and object strongly to Michael Howard's proposals to criminalise hunt saboteurs..." (Mr C.McN. Portadown, Co. Armagh)
"My husband and I wholeheartedly support the hunt saboteurs....One can only assume that Michael Howard has taken leave of his senses...it is completely wrong that he is using his position to criminalise those who care for animals....We are Conservative voters but are absolutely adamant that if Michael Howard succeeds we shall NOT vote for them again...." (Mrs J.S., Bolton, Lancs.)
"Michael Howard's statement that he intends to introduce a law to protect the hunting set against ordinary decent people must have incensed very many people such as us....I am not a hunt saboteur but want to support wholeheartedly the people who have the courage to turn up at the 'meets' and make their views known. They are doing it for the rest of us...." (Mrs M.P., Bath, Avon)
As the Home Office were clearly not interested in establishing a coherent and sensible policy for the policing of hunts, the HSA embarked upon an extensive series of meetings with police forces across the country. Over the summer of 1993, meetings were held with forces in some of the most troublesome areas in the country including Cheshire, Surrey, Leicestershire, Essex, and Thames Valley. These meetings were extremely useful in developing a working relationship between hunt saboteurs and police on the ground. Consequently, they have produced enormous benefits in closer liaison and co-operation between the two groups and have helped defuse otherwise potentially explosive situations. In turn, this has freed considerable resources for the police, leading to a dramatic drop in expenditure on policing hunts and freeing such resources for deployment elsewhere. In many other areas of the country saboteurs and police have now developed such co-operation with considerable benefits for all sides. All these gains havebeen achieved by dint of hard work by saboteurs and police officers and forces. Almost without exception, neither the Home Office nor the hunting fraternity have contributed anything to the process other than obstacles. The proposed laws would bring an end to such co-operation and bring more difficulties for the police at a time when they are already severely overstretched.
The police are also concerned that this legislation will create more problems than it will solve for them. They know only too well that at a time when crime is rife and the role of the police is under scrutiny as never before there will be few members of the public who will understand that the police have little choice in the matter and are forced by law to set aside the impartiality on which we traditionally rely. How many officers really joined the force to help hunts kill foxes rather than tackle crime? This legislation will place officers in an untenable position and waste a huge amount of resources which would be far better employed making our streets safe again.
It will also fall to the police to sort out the mess created by the sloppy drafting of the bill. As just one example, how are they to establish if someone is a trespasser? The landowner is frequently not present in such situations but members of the hunt crowd round claiming to have authorisation from the landowner and demanding action. In the field, an officer may have no reason to doubt their word, but if it turns out that in fact neither the landowner nor any of his agents were even present, the officer may well find himself on the wrong end of a civil action for wrongful arrest. Who will carry the can then? Not the government, who will just continue to pressurise the police for more arrests on less money.
This concern was reflected by Chief Inspector Trevor Davies from the Operations Department of Thames Valley Police who told the Sunday Telegraph that after talks between police and saboteurs "Things have improved considerably". However, the article went on to say that he fears "the new laws could undermine the peaceful, if uneasy, truce and oblige him to divert more manpower to policing hunts." Inspector Mark Barrow of Northants Police was quoted as saying "To make an arrest I would have to be certain that the saboteurs were trespassing. If no landowner is present, how do I know? One hunt in my area covers the land of 1,290 landowners."
In short, those who know the situation best are sorting out problems on the ground and producing substantial results in the field. Co-operation between saboteurs and police has produced workable mechanisms of benefit to all sides, with a considerable financial saving to boot. This has come about from the combined efforts of those on the ground who know what they're doing and how to tackle the problems. Interference from on high by those who know nothing of the situation other than a skim through glossy pro-hunt propaganda can only serve to make life more difficult for the police and wreck hard-won progress.
1) Section 68.
Trespass is not defined for the purposes of the bill other than the tautologous statement in S.56 that "trespasser, in relation to land, means in England and Wales, a person who is a trespasser as against the occupier of the land; and in Scotland, a person intruding onto the occupier's land". Therefore one can only assume that the offence defaults to its broadest definition under civil law, part of which is that trespass to land or property may be defined as interference with the normal enjoyment/use of that land or property. Hence, as the bill stands it is possible one would not have to be present on private land to commit an offence. In practice it is highly unlikely that this would be taken to include the public highway, although the bill would arguably allow for that. It is however, entirely possible that it could be applied even to persons on public footpaths crossing private land where a lawful activity was taking place.
Legal difficulties aside, this provision is likely to prove highly problematic for police officers attempting to work with the new act. One police officer in Northamptonshire has some 1,290 landowners in his area. It will be well-nigh impossible for him to ascertain whether or not someone genuinely is trespassing on a piece of land as it is self-evident that anyone can claim to be the landowner - if they subsequently turn out not to be he could face a civil action for wrongful arrest.
ii) "lawful activity".
Again, no definition is provided of what constitutes a lawful activity other than the wide-ranging definition of lawful provided under s.2. In relation to hunting, there are particular problems as to what would actually constitute the "activity" of hunting. Presumably, it would be defined in law as a sport and the enjoyment thereof, rather than, e.g., killing foxes. Therefore, anything that disturbs this enjoyment would constitute an offence. From this, there are further questions as to whether this should be considered on the collective or individual level. In other words, would it only be an offence to upset the hunt as a whole, to disturb in some way whatever comes to be defined as its central core or just in relation to one or perhaps two members of the hunt? What, in law, constitutes the "activity" of hunting?
Going further, which activities are to be included? Ramblers who find a footpath sown with crops but proceed anyway could be in quite serious trouble. Farming is a lawful activity, one can trespass whilst on a footpath, and, in any event, it is easy to stray from an ill-defined footpath when it goes diagonally across a field of, say, wheat or rape.
iii) "or are about to engage in".
What time-frame does this refer to? In relation to hunting, we are presumably talking about the same day. In relation to sowing crops or lambing, both activities measured primarily in seasons rather than hours, this could be a period of weeks. One possibility is that the time-frame depends upon the intended interference. In other words, if whatever you do is intended to effect an activity taking place on the same day, then that is the time-frame, but if you, say, lay a false trail in an area not due to be hunted for two weeks, then the time-frame expands. This phrasing also lays it open for hunts to have protesters cleared from large tracts of land which they have no intention of going near, by merely claiming that during the course of the day's hunting they may end up there. The police will not, in most cases, be aware which land the hunt will cross or even what is realistic in the course of a day's hunting. Be prepared for grandiose tales of 20-mile points. This also has connotations for S.69 below.
iv) "or adjoining land"
Again, it is unclear exactly what this means and hence what its impact will be. However, it is clear that this casts the net for potential exclusion zones even further, and again will probably be used to ensure that persons on footpaths are included within the scope of the offence.
v) "does there anything"
A word almost unheard of in English criminal law. It is usual for offences to be defined in terms of specific acts or omissions. To say "anything" is a sign of the Home Office's inability to actually define this new offence and also their desperation to avoid mentioning hunting, saboteurs, horns, etc. To do so would be to admit of partiality, fatal in those circles where jurisprudence still means something more than a handy move in Scrabble.
vi) "which is intended by him".
The question of intent is a fraught one. In theory the only person who can give evidence of an accused's intent is the accused, as telepathy is not currently recognised as valid in English (or Scottish) courts. However, this is a palpable nonsense as there are many crimes, such as murder, where intent is part of the definition of the offence where it would plainly be ludicrous for someone to merely claim they didn't intend to kill or seriously injure and then walk free. Therefore, the court is entitled to take into account the circumstances of the alleged offence and deduce the accused's intent from there. In the case of hunt saboteurs, simply being in the area and being known to be anti-hunt would probably be sufficient. This makes the law entirely subjective as conviction may well rest upon who you are, rather than what you do.
vii) "of obstructing or disrupting that activity".
There is no clear indication of what would constitute obstruction or disruption. As a point of note, obstruction of the highway is a notorious offence for the complexity of the issues turning on the definition of obstruction in what should be a fairly simple offence to define. As noted above, it is likely that any definition of hunting as an activity would be focused upon its "sporting" aspect, and hence enjoyment of it as an activity. Thus, with these two words undefined, it could easily be taken that anything which interfered with the enjoyment of the day's hunting either for the hunt as a whole or for an unspecified number of individuals within the hunt (see above) would constitute an offence. If you're anti-hunt, then intent is essentially proved and you are guilty of an offence, on the grounds of your views and whether the hunt say you upset them. It is not difficult to see that this could be used to criminalise any opposition to bloodsports taking place on private land. For example, the League Against Cruel Sports has a well-established network of anti-hunt activists who monitor, observe and film/photograph hunts at work. They do not go onto private land, but often use footpaths across private land. As this bill stands such a monitor on a footpath could find themselves defined as trespassers for not using the footpath solely for bustling along, doing something which members of the hunt claim to find upsetting (or even intimidating, although it is likely that courts would demand something more substantial and threatening in terms of actions than mere presence) and with intent proven, insofar as they are anti-hunt and therefore clearly not worried about upsetting hunters. This would more likely come under the head disruption (of the enjoyment) than obstruction, but given the vagueness of both concepts the net is likely to be wide enough to clearly include a lot more than just hunt saboteurs.
Not only is trespass (even in a way that most people would not recognise as trespass) criminalised but it is also to be an arrestable offence, and further, punishable by imprisonment, given only that you are anti-hunt and carrying out some ill-defined activity of the most minimal nature. This is a quite unnecessarily draconian measure to punish those who do not agree with bloodsports for taking virtually any form of opposition to hunting other than writing letters to their local paper.
2) Section 69.
i) "reasonably believes"
On what criterion can an officer's belief be said to be reasonable? The sections of PACE dealing with powers to stop and search ran into trouble on precisely these grounds and the courts eventually had to rule. It is obvious that this section is open to the same problems. Some officers may feel that the mere fact that a person or group of persons is demonstrating against a hunt in the vicinity makes them likely to commit the offence. Others may require far more evidence of such intent. Again, this section could fall foul of the "he looked the sort" attitude which so bedevilled PACE. A criterion that is regularly accepted in relation to reasonable belief is "information received". This is open to wide abuse by unscrupulous hunt supporters who only have to tell an officer that such and such a group of persons have in the past behaved in a way contrary to 68.1 and so are likely to do so that day, or have done on that day, even if they have not in fact done so, and the officer would then be under extreme pressure to exclude or possibly arrest and prosecute people for being anti-hunt.
ii) "he may direct that person......to leave the land"
Which land? Is this to include land which is about to have an activity engaged in on it as raised above? If so, then the police are being granted wide powers to ban people from any land within a hunt's country no matter where the hunt actually are, not just on the day but for the next three months (see below).
i) "as soon as practicable"
The normal form of words for such directions is "as soon as is reasonably practicable". There is no obvious reason for this discretion to be omitted here, unless it is intended to catch out those persons who do not quite break the land-speed record when leaving land.
ii) "within the period of three months"
It is unclear why this draconian clause should be necessary. Given the "about to" be hunted clause in 68.1 referred to above, people could be banned from land stretching across three or four counties for three months and then have the ban reimposed if they go near the hunt when the period expires. It is worth noting that these exclusion orders can be imposed on people without them actually committing any offence, just looking like they might or are thinking about it. This could be a most effective tool to, for example, prevent LACS monitors from checking if a hunt has unblocked badger setts (as laid down in the Badgers Act) on pain of arrest and possible imprisonment, without them ever having to trespass.
b) Overall effect of S. 69
These powers amount to the power to throw blanket exclusion orders over anti-hunt activists no matter what their behaviour, forbidding them from going near hunts, or land the hunt might go on, for a week at a time. In effect, these powers amount to arbitrary rolling injunctions granted without recourse to the legal process on little more basis than a hunch or gossip.
The following examples are just a small selection of the many hunt members, supporters and officials who have been convicted of criminal offences in the past few years.
- January 1991 South Dorset Foxhunt terriermen Kenneth Nobbs and Nicholas Stevens convicted of criminal damage after a 20-strong gang turned a car full of saboteurs over onto its roof in March 1990 at Bockhampton, Dorset. One of the saboteurs told police she honestly thought she was going to die.
- May 1991 Isle of Wight Foxhunt Huntsman Stephen Clifton and Essex & Suffolk Foxhunt terrierman James Butcher convicted of badger digging after being caught in the act by an RSPCA undercover unit. Initially, the IOW Foxhunt backed Mr Clifton, even supporting his proposed appeal (which was quickly dropped) and he continued to be welcome at hunt events until he left to take a job as Huntsman in Canada, which he still holds.
- July 1991 New Forest Foxhounds supporters Adrian Bungey and Keith Colbert plead guilty to assaulting two hunt saboteurs after punching and kicking them. One of the saboteurs was held down in a river while he was being attacked on March 9th, near Fritham, Hampshire.
- August 1991 Wheatland Foxhunt Master Richard Millner convicted of Actual Bodily Harm after beating up his wife at their home in Much Wenlock, Shropshire. He was in a drunken rage when she would not succumb to his demands for sex and shouted "I'm drunk as a newt and I'm going to f**k you" before beating her about the head, breasts and arms. His wife informed the HSA, saying "I'm not anti-hunting but I thought the HSA could help - it's not just their members who've suffered a beating."
- August 1991 Surrey Union Joint Master and Huntsman John Funnell received two-year suspended prison sentence after riding his horse repeatedly over a saboteur lying on the ground at Farley Heath, Surrey. The saboteur sustained wounds to his head, back and legs. Funnell was urged on in the attack and backed all the way by his fellow Master, Pru Goodchild.
- December 1991 Old Surrey & Burstow Foxhunt Whipper-in Mark Bycroft and supporters Nigel Trevithick-Wood (husband of one of the Joint Masters) and Kenneth Banks found guilty of ABH and affray after attacking two saboteurs at a cubhunting meet in August. They had chased, beaten and whipped one saboteur and Banks had kicked a second in the groin. The Recorder told Trevithick-Wood "You are a man who in the past has all too readily resorted to violence...As a senior member of the hunt you are setting an appalling example." All three received suspended sentences; this did not prevent the hunt from appointing Bycroft huntsman.
- January 1992 Albrighton Foxhunt supporter Gary Whelband found guilty of ABH after punching a saboteur to the ground and kicking him in the head as he lay on the floor. The saboteur sustained head injuries, a perforated ear drum and a broken jaw in the attack at Burnell Green, Staffs. in October 1991.
- March 1992 West Norfolk Foxhunt supporter Mark Fuller found guilty of affray and three counts of criminal damage. The 6ft 6in farmer attacked a TV journalist and a female hunt saboteur, smashed two video cameras and damaged a van, causing damage totalling £1463 at North Runcton, Norfolk.
- June 1992 Bicester with Whaddon Chase Foxhunt supporters Richard and Thomas Cheshire convicted of ABH and affray at Buckingham Magistrates' Court after attacking anti-hunt protesters present at 1991 Boxing Day meet as observers. They and others blocked in the protesters' car, smashed the windows with baseball bats and a sledgehammer, dragged the occupants out through the smashed windscreen while repeatedly punching them and then turned the car over down an embankment. (see also May 1993)
- August 1992 Enfield Chace Foxhunt Terrierman Paul Cheeseman convicted of damaging a badger sett the previous November.
- August 1992 New Forest Buckhounds Huntsman John Stride convicted of assault and criminal damage after attacking saboteur with his whip in November 1991 near Burley, Hampshire.
- May 1993 Bicester with Whaddon Chase Foxhunt steward Richard Cheshire and terrierman Michael Smith plead guilty to Actual Bodily Harm and are jailed for two months after Cheshire pushed a saboteur in front of a vehicle driven by Smith. Smith swerved to ensure he would hit the saboteur who received months of physiotherapy for injuries to his back and hip. Cheshire has a long track record of thuggery and a previous conviction for ABH (see June 1992)
Saboteur receives medical attention after attack by Richard Cheshire
- November 1993 Essex Farmers' and Union Foxhunt terriermen Bryn Chittenden and Roger Wakefield convicted of affray and violent disorder after a sustained attack on saboteurs also involving mounted members of the hunt in April 1992. Wakefield also pleaded guilty to criminal damage for smashing the van windows with the fence post used in the attack.
- February 1994 Bramham Moor Foxhunt supporter Raymond Walker pleaded guilty to affray and criminal damage after attacking saboteurs with a scythe and smashing van windows in January 1993. Two other hunt supporters, Mr & Mrs Winstanley, pleaded guilty to affray for their part in the "psychotic" attack after which two saboteurs required hospital treatment for head wounds.
Raymond "sane" Walker at his fun-loving best