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
A report on the first season of the implementation of the new offence of aggravated trespass from May 1995.
This report was written to assess the impact of the new offence of aggravated trespass at the end of the first hunting season in which it was used. It does not deal with other sections of the Act so references to the CJA or to "the act" should be taken to refer only to s68-69 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, rather than the law as a whole.
- The history of the CJA
- Hunting's response: smears, propaganda, and the strategy of tension
- Defying the climate of fear: sabs carry on sabbing
- How the CJA has failed: figures from the 1994-95 season
- An incomprehensible law
- Nick 'em all: arbitrary arrests
- The cost of the CJA
- Fighting back
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 came into force on Thursday 3rd November 1994, just in time for the opening meets of most foxhunts, although hunting had been going on in the form of cubhunting since August. It contains, among many other measures, two sections, s.68 and 69 which created the new offence of "aggravated trespass" to deal with hunt saboteurs. Far from being the death-knell of protest at hunts, as many predicted, hunt sabs' activity this season has if anything increased as people became galvanised and determined to protect not only the wild animals which are hunted for sport, but also their right to do so.
As we shall see, the Act has proved in practice to be what we predicted it would be - a dismal failure. Many forces have refused to implement the new provisions, regarding them as unnecessary and unworkable, while those forces that have attempted to implement them have had their fingers badly burned both in the courts and in the field. In the meantime, sabbing has continued as normal, with over 150 hunts hit this season, plus dozens of shoots.
The 1986 Public Order Act was described by the then Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd, as "spelling the end of the road for hunt saboteurs". In 1986, as in 1994, the new legislation was preceded by months of speculation and trepidation, with widespread predictions of doom for any non-mainstream protests. In the year or so following the introduction of the Act, saboteurs bore the brunt of many of the new public order offences, with literally hundreds of people being arrested and charged under s. 5 of the Act. (Our legal officer at the time described this as the new police 'mantra' - "Section 5, my son, section 5"). It quickly became clear that the police did not really understand the new act - they had been told that s. 5 made saboteurs illegal and so launched mass arrests of sabs under the section, irrespective of whether any offence had been committed, leading to some very bloody noses in the courts. Many of the cases were dropped; some reached court and the majority of defendants were acquitted; of those who were convicted at magistrates' courts, a high proportion were successful in overturning the verdict on appeal. By the end of 1989, there were nearly 100 civil cases against various police forces, resulting in over £¼ million being paid out to saboteurs in 1991/92 alone. Section 5 is still used against saboteurs but in much-reduced circumstances and in most forces has gone out of fashion as the catch-all "saboteurs' offence". Indeed, as a testament to the failure of s.5, as a proportion of arrests per season it is far outstripped by the old standby breach of the peace, a centuries-old common law power.
As in 1994, in 1986 hunts were cock-a-hoop about the new powers and put heavy pressure on the police to mount large-scale arrests of saboteurs en masse. Many did back then and got their fingers burnt. Partly as a result of that, many police forces adopted a more constructive approach to policing hunts, designed to avoid problems arising for all sides, rather than the "nick-'em all" approach favoured by the hunts and the Home Office.
HUNTING'S RESPONSE: SMEARS, PROPAGANDA, AND THE STRATEGY OF TENSION
This new positive approach by some police forces did not go down well with many hunts who felt they had a right, as decent pillars of the wildlife-slaughtering community, to see their opponents bundled up and carted off by the police in the name of all that is right and proper. So, spearheaded by the BFSS (British Field Sports Society), they launched a 3½-year propaganda campaign of smear and innuendo, costing well over £1 million, to get new, tougher legislation against saboteurs.
The strategy of tension ...
sabs in hospital, new laws in parliament
In case the glossy booklets, invented schlock-horror stories, and faked photographs weren't getting the point across, in 1992 hunts all across the country introduced "stewards", private security guards or in some cases their own home-grown thugs. The scheme was a great success from the individual hunts' point of view - they had ready-made private armies to beat up any who dared oppose them - but also fed into the national campaign to secure legislation against sabs. Despite the fact that this unprecedented wave of violence at hunts was caused by their own "stewarding" scheme, the BFSS were able to point to hunts all across the country where there were violent attacks every week - never mind that they were violent attacks by hunt supporters and stewards on saboteurs. The media happily lapped up hunt press releases about violence at hunt meets without bothering to inquire about who had caused it and who had suffered - it was overwhelmingly saboteurs who were ending up in casualty units and hospital beds.
The BFSS finally got their reward for this "strategy of tension" with Michael Howard's speech in Didcot on Saturday 6th November 1994 when he labelled saboteurs "thugs, wreckers, and bullies" and announced "I am blowing the whistle on their antics", citing several spurious tales from BFSS propaganda in support of his new measures. Within half-an-hour of him uttering those words, a hunt master at a meet less than 10 miles away rode his horse over a saboteur. On the same day three saboteurs were treated at Lancaster Infirmary for head injuries after a sustained attack by mounted and foot supporters with staves, riding crops and whips; a hunt supporter in Hertfordshire tried to impale saboteurs and their van on a 6-foot baling spike attached to his tractor; in Hampshire, saboteurs were attacked by hunt members with whips.
Interestingly, this season stewards have been withdrawn from all but a handful of hunt across the country, with the bloodsports press saying they are no longer necessary since the introduction of the CJA. Does this mean that the new law has put a stop to saboteur activity? Hardly - as we shall see below, sabs are active as ever. The more cynical may perhaps feel that instead, stewards are no longer needed as they have served their purpose. The strategy of tension worked and the law was passed. Unfortunately for the BFSS, it just doesn't work the way they wanted.
The Home Office, the bloodsports lobby groups, and, regrettably, even many supporters of the right to protest widely predicted that the new measures on aggravated trespass would spell the end of the road for hunt saboteurs and others wishing to make peaceful protests against hunting. This is understandable: anti-CJA groups were trying to demonstrate the extent of the draconian attacks on civil liberties and the right to protest the bill represents; while the Home Office and bloodsports groups obviously wished to give the impression that anti-hunt protesters would now automatically be going to jail in order to intimidate would-be protesters.
Almost alone, the HSA said that although the Bill was undoubtedly intended to be one of the most repressive pieces of peacetime public order legislation, in practice it was so badly put together and so ill thought out that it would prove to be largely unworkable. The only way the new provisions could succeed would be if people were to be intimidated by the mythology of the Act and give up their protests, making its implementation unnecessary.
However, saboteurs are made of sterner stuff than that - quite apart from the fact that we do not give into bullies, be they hunt thugs or Home Secretaries, if we give up and go home it is ultimately the wildlife we protect that will suffer. So we carried on as we have done for over 30 years, going out week in, week out, to save wild animals from a grisly death at the hands of the "sportsmen" who kill for fun. We knew from the start we would be in the front line of the CJA and so it has proved - over 90% of those arrested under the CJA have been hunt saboteurs - but we refused to be intimidated. Over 150 fox, hare and deer hunts have been hit by saboteurs this season, most of them several times over the course of the season, and some of them every week, not to mention dozens of rough, wildfowl, and gamebird shoots, with thousands of animals saved as a result. We estimate that over the season as a whole over 1,000 hunting days have been hit by hunt sabs. If this is what Michael Howard calls "blowing the whistle" on our activities, he really should look at getting a louder whistle.
HOW THE CJA HAS FAILED: FIGURES FROM THE 1994-95 SEASON
There have been some 154 saboteurs arrested or reported for summons for alleged offences under s68-69 of the Criminal Justice Act in the hunting season 1994-95.
Some of the arrests made under the CJA would undoubtedly have taken place anyway under breach of the peace legislation, but the majority can be attributed to "novelty factor" or to areas where the police adopted a policy of broad-scale arrests of saboteurs, such as Essex, Hampshire, the Kettering and Corby divisions of Northamptonshire police, the Kirkby Moorside area of North Yorkshire, and in the latter part of the season, Sussex. It quickly became apparent that this hard-line approach was untenable and as the season wore on, many areas abandoned or modified it.
The track record of the Criminal Justice Act so far is not exactly inspiring: of the 154 people arrested or reported for summons, only 11 have been convicted and one bound over, while 67 cases have been dropped before reaching court. This translates to a pitiable "success" rate for the Home Secretary of 7.1%, with 43.6% of cases being dropped. At the time of writing, we are still awaiting the results of 76 cases, but with just under half the cases already in the results are not encouraging for supporters of the CJA. Even if the conviction rate doubles, which seems unlikely as some of the most laughable arrests have yet to be dealt with, we do not anticipate seeing these figures highlighted in any of Mr Howard's shiny new "league tables" for "measuring" police performance.
One of the most ridiculous aspects of the whole CJA farce has been how unworkable it is in practice. Irrespective of the approach or policy of a given area, officers on the ground have obviously struggled to come to terms with when an offence is being committed and when it is not. In the hard-line areas, this has issue has been "resolved" by arresting anyone who looks like they may be identifiably a saboteur who is found in the vicinity of the hunt. Thus, many of the people currently facing charges of aggravated trespass (and several of those convicted for the offence) were not even trespassing when the offence was supposedly committed.
An Inspector has to ask sabs to interpret the law "because the CPS won't tell us"
Few, if any, of the officers who are expected to police the new offence have any real grasp of what the offence actually is or any idea of what the law says. Thus, in January 1995 Hampshire police arrested a man for aggravated trespass when he was on a public road! This sort of ignorance is not just confined to junior ranks. In November 1994, an Essex officer of the rank of Inspector tried to stop a saboteur from walking down a public road on the grounds that "that would be aggravated trespass". Several saboteurs arrested in Northamptonshire in the same month were on a footpath which was legally defined as a highway (and therefore excluded from those categories of land on which the offence of aggravated trespass may be deemed to be taking place) under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the very act used in the CJA to define those classes of land! In January 1995, in Northamptonshire, the senior officer present had to have the act explained to him by a saboteur he had been attempting to arrest erroneously. (The officer had quoted a draft version of the bill which had subsequently undergone several revisions in committee stage and when the saboteur quoted the current act admitted he did not know what the law said and as such could not lawfully make an arrest.) In December 1994, a saboteur was asked to give his definition of several key terms in s. 68 by an officer in command of operational policy for a entire police division because "the CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] won't tell us". The local CPS took the view that the act was so badly drafted it was impossible to give specific definitions and advised the officer to tell his men to arrest saboteurs who were "causing trouble" and then let the courts decide what the act actually stipulated. We are happy that our legal expertise is so highly valued by such a senior officer, but cannot help but feel that there must be something wrong with a law that is so open to doubt that the CPS refuse even to give the police an opinion on how it might be used in practice.
The act is so poorly drafted that it can apparently be perfectly lawful to conduct oneself in one way in one part of the country, yet in the next county can lead to being hauled up in front of a court, depending on the whim of the officer in charge on the day or even the officer who happens to be present at the time. We do not feel it is unduly idealistic to state that the rule of law should apply evenly across the kingdom.
"NICK 'EM ALL, LET THE COURTS SORT 'EM OUT": ARBITRARY ARRESTS UNDER THE CJA
While most police forces have quite sensibly approached the CJA with caution, recognising it as a shambles, some have viewed it as an excuse to arrest anyone who opposes hunts more or less on a whim. Several forces approached the new legislation with gusto, viewing it as an opportunity to create "no-go" areas for sabs.
Essex police seem to regard the act as a de facto excuse to ride roughshod over the rights of individuals and the rule of law, arbitrarily arresting saboteurs, denying rights of access on footpaths, sealing off roads without lawful authority to anyone deemed potentially inimical to the hunt, attacking anti-hunt protesters and whatever else occurs to them at the time.
In other force areas, it has been more difficult for saboteurs to know where they stand. Sussex police seemed quite happy for saboteurs to continue as normal until February 1995 when they began arresting saboteurs for merely being present at a hunt. In Yorkshire, the deciding factor seems to be geographical rather than chronological - of the 30 arrests that have taken place in the 3 force areas that make up Yorkshire, 19 have been at the Old Ampleforth Beagles. In case anyone should be in any doubt as to the singularity of these arrests, they were all carried out by officers from Kirkby Moorside police station who seem to exhibit a peculiar enthusiasm to protect the hunt whose Master, Simon Longworth, knocked a woman's teeth out in a vicious assault in August 1994. Why should this one police station take such a hard-line approach that is apparently unnecessary in the whole of the rest of the county? The behaviour of sabs at the Old Ampleforth has been no different from that at other hunts, nor have the Old Ampleforth had a disproportionate attendance - sabs in the area have been attending hunts all over the region twice a week throughout the season - indeed, if anything, when sabs have been present at the Old Ampleforth, it has often been in smaller numbers than at other hunts. Quite simply, the CJA has enabled officers from Kirkby Moorside to carry out a vendetta against local saboteurs and they have pursued it with vigour, apparently determined to cow sabs in the area into submission. Their efforts to make Kirkby Moorside a "no-go" area for anti-hunt activity have been in vain and sabs will continue to attend hunts wherever animals are killed for sport.
CJA policy in Kettering -
"Fuck off or you're nicked" (start of season)
"We probably made a bit of cock-up at the start" (end of season)
In Northamptonshire, the Kettering and Corby divisions to the east of the county started the season determined to use the new act to wipe out sabs in their area. On the first day that sabs were present at the Woodland Pytchley Foxhunt after the act became law, they were told they would all be arrested. In the event five people were arrested, three of them after a farcical operation involving a fire engine called out to retrieve them from a tree! This incident is especially outrageous in the light of the fact that none of the three people it was so vital to arrest that a fire engine had to be called away from its proper business for some hours on Guy Fawkes' Day, often one of their busiest days of the year, were prosecuted for any offence. The arrests were arbitrary, unnecessary and carried out at great cost to already hard-pressed resources on largely vindictive grounds. The following week, sabs were told two of them would be allowed to accompany the hunt to video them, as long as they did not attempt to interfere with the progress of the hunt. The sabs followed the agreement to the letter, with all but two of the group staying away from the hunt on the road while two followed the hunt with a camcorder. Both were arrested, for following police instructions. Not surprisingly, the CPS refused to prosecute the two men. In fact of the 7 people arrested at these first two meets of the Woodland Pytchley Foxhunt, only one was ever prosecuted. One of the officers who gave evidence at his case admitted that the objective had been to arrest as many saboteurs as possible. As the season wore on, it became clear that Kettering police had little or no idea how to police a hunt and were entirely unfamiliar with the provisions of the law, as time and again it had to be explained to them. This did not prevent them from swaggering up to sabs at meets and declaring that they would all be arrested. On one occasion a sergeant ordered the driver of the sabs' vehicle to leave the area immediately on pain of arrest and not to return for the rest of the day, on the grounds of aggravated trespass! He would not even allow the driver to pick up his colleagues, effectively forcing them to stay at the hunt, but told the driver to "Fuck off or you're nicked". It is difficult to see how a vehicle driving along public roads can commit the offence of aggravated trespass or how isolating ten sabs at a hunt is conducive to effective policing of public order. Early in 1995, Kettering changed their attitude as the first lot of arrests began to be thrown out by the CPS. By February most of the cases had been dropped and Kettering police were now forced to admit that they had "made a bit of a cock-up" of policing the first part of the season.
Hampshire police have apparently yet to see the light. At a meet of the Meon Valley Beagles, on 2nd January 1995, sabs overheard the astonishing order over the police radio to arrest anyone who could be identified as a saboteur. In the event, only 7 people were arrested as there were not sufficient officers to arrest any more. Five days later, Hampshire officers arrested 10 people at the Garth & South Berks Foxhunt on an entirely random basis. Two of the sabs were arrested for committing aggravated trespass on a road, others were pulled out at random. Two months later, the sabs were told unofficially that they would be receiving a letter of apology for their appalling treatment. At the time of writing, four months after the arrests, they have still not had any communication from Hampshire police.
Sussex police seem to have caught on to the new game rather later in the season, only making the first CJA arrests at the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Foxhunt in mid-February. However, they more than made up for their late start with a pre-planned ambush at the hunt's penultimate meet. Sabs had only just arrived at the hunt when they were ordered by a lone police officer to leave the area via an obscure track. Although they had committed no offence, they complied with this request but found the track blocked by a police Land Rover; their van was quickly surrounded by some 25 police officers who had apparently been lying in wait down this track. The police then used crowbars and other implements not usually carried by officers on routine patrol to break in to the vehicle and stripped it down, confiscating everything they could lay their hands on and arresting the occupants. It subsequently transpired that officers had been given orders days before the hunt to arrest a prominent local saboteur ("take out the ringleader") and then arrest as many other saboteurs as possible.
Some fifty officers from two forces were deployed to deal with the Garth & South Berks meet discussed above. On top of the cost of paying for these officers' wages, there are the dozen vans, land rovers and other vehicles deployed in the operation, the logistical support, time taken to coordinate the operation by officers on the ground and at area level. Then those arrested have to be locked up, processed etc. All this consumes many hundreds of police man-hours at a cost of several thousand pounds - for one day's foxhunting. Essex police are even more profligate with the public purse: on at least two occasions this season they have deployed over a hundred officers and brought in officers from other forces. These officers have been backed up by riot vans, mobile cell units, coordinating vehicles, the force helicopter (in itself costing several thousand pounds a day to run) and large amounts of logisical support not visible in the field. The bill for operations on that scale runs into the tens of thousands. All this money has to come from a limited budget and all the resources deployed have been diverted from more serious police functions, like dealing with crime.
Crime budgets slashed ...
but thousands spent on a single day's hunting
Irrespective of the Home Office's attempts to juggle the crime statistics by "declassifying" whole categories of crime (common assault being the most obvious example), it is manifestly obvious to most people in this country that real crime rates are worse than ever. Yet the Home Office have imposed swinging budget cuts on the police, causing an ever greater squeeze on the available resources to deal with crime. In the same period, the government has launched several major reviews of "core" police functions and introduced risible schemes such as league tables to "focus" police activities to these "core" functions. Against this background, it is wholly unacceptable to be taking officers, resources, and thousands of pounds out of ever-smaller budgets away from crime to help hunts kill for fun. Does anyone seriously believe that the public support all this money, time and effort being wasted on hunts when it could be spent on tackling burglars, muggers and the like? We do not believe that this is what taxpayers work so hard to pay for.
It became apparent early on that some forces, as outlined above, were attempting to use the CJA to smother any opposition to hunting and impose "no-go areas" for sabs. Saboteurs have never given into bullying, be it in the traditional form of hunt thugs with pickaxe handles, or in this newer form of Home Office policy. It was obvious that simply sending ever larger numbers of sabs to a particular hunt was not the best answer to oppressive CJA policing, as it could be easily dealt with by simply drafting in more police and arresting even more sabs.
Instead, a more subtle approach was devised. Rather than have a large number of sabs at one hunt, an essentially static situation that the police can just "throw numbers" at, sabs would hit several hunts in the same force area on the same day, forcing the police to respond on the hoof to several calls simultaneously and so continually divide their available resources. The strategy was first tested in Northamptonshire in December 1994, with three hunts and a shoot being hit at opposite ends of the county. One vehicle of sabs arrived first at the Woodland Pytchley in the east of the county, where Kettering police adopted their usual aggressive approach and tried to call in back-up as another three sab vans arrived. Unfortunately, by this time sabs had also arrived at the Grafton and Bicester with Whaddon Chase Foxhunts in the northwest of the county. Not only were Kettering not able to get their back-up, and hence unable to carry out any arrests, but to the west the two hunts had to share one police van between them which had to ferry between the two as best they could.
The strategy was used several more times in various parts of the country to great effect, perhaps most markedly in Essex in January 1995 when sabs effectively imposed a blanket ban on bloodsports in the county for the day, hitting three hunts and a pheasant shoot. Essex police were caught entirely off-guard and and struggled to cope as reports came in from all across the county as their command system more or less collapsed. Police coverage of the hunts was, to say the least, patchy and appallingly coordinated: while the Essex Farmers' and Union Hunt initially got only a couple of traffic patrol cars, police numbers at the hunt eventually climbed to some 60 officers and the force helicopter; meanwhile the Essex Hunt received only four officers and the Essex and Suffolk only about eight. The shoot had to make do with "spares" from the Essex Farmers' and Union Hunt. The police made no arrests at any of the four locations and all three hunts and the shoot had given up by 2 p.m.
The CJA was introduced with a fanfare of gloomy prophecies for the future of hunt saboteurs. We were told that few, if any, hunts would be hit in the 1994-95 season and that anyone who attempted to sabotage hunts would be immediately arrested and could face several months in jail. The reality has turned out to be very different and this season has in fact been considerably better than we could have dared hope.
Most importantly, the prediction that we would not be able to carry on saving animals' lives has been completely blown out of the water. Sabs have hit over 150 hunts this season, plus dozens of shoots, saving thousands of animals' lives, with arrests at only a small proportion of the hunts attended.
Even where arrests have taken place or saboteurs been reported for summons, the overwhelming majority have been dropped before getting anywhere near a court. The conviction rate of 7.1% speaks for itself as a damning indictment of the new offences of aggravated trespass. Of the few cases in which convictions have been secured, all but two are subject to appeals, potentially slimming down the "success rate" still further. The much-vaunted jail terms have not been used - the heaviest sentences to date have been £200 fines and some of those convicted have received conditional discharges. In a season that has seen sabs at over 1,000 separate hunting days, less than £1,000 has been imposed in fines across the country as a whole. That's less than a pound for every hunting day lost to saboteurs.
Most police forces have been very wary of the new act, as it is so badly put together as to be almost impossible to put into practice. Those that have attempted to implement it have had a very bad time of it. They have seen case after case being thrown out by the CPS and far from deterring sabs from their area, the hardline approach has served mainly to single out that force for increased saboteur activity. These forces have been hit twice for their hardline policies - in the field and in the legal arena. They have also had to expend considerable resources in implementing these policies, with precious little reward in the way of convictions. In times when police forces across the country are having millions slashed off their budgets how can any force justify spending several thousand pounds on one day's hunting?
"Most politicians' understanding of policing is akin to a dog's understanding of lamp-posts"
(Chair of the constables' committe speaking at the Police Federation annual conference, May 1995)
The new offence of aggravated trespass has failed in its primary aim: sabs are as active as ever and will continue to be so. The only people being punished by the act are the police who are expected to try and work with this shambles at the cost of dealing with crime, and the public who are expected to pay for it while seeing crime steadily increase.
The act is, quite simply, a mess. It is unsupportable in principle; unworkable and ruinously expensive in practice. Even the 1986 Public Order Act did not fail so spectacularly so quickly. The blame for this shambles must be laid firmly at the door of the Home Secretary who introduced the act at the behest of the hunting lobby for the sake of a few cheap cheers at the party conference. He did not bother to look at the real problems of public order policing at hunts and failed to think through any sort of policy for dealing with it. He should be made to admit his failure and repeal the act. We will continue to intervene to protect wildlife until bloodsports are banned; it will take a better man than Michael Howard to stop us.
As long as there are bloodsports, there will be hunt saboteurs
© HUNT SABOTEURS ASSOCIATION May 1995
RIGHT TO SILENCE:
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC ORDER BILL 1994
The following article from 1994 was written by the HSA's then Legal officer, dealing with the changes in the law regarding a suspect's right to silence, and how it is likely to affect hunt saboteurs.
THE RIGHT TO SILENCE
We all know that the CJB was designed to criminalise sabbing and other forms of direct action by upgrading civil laws of trespass into criminal offences. However its effect on hunt sabs does not end here. One of the most controversial changes to criminal law which the Bill proposes is the right to silence. These changes will have a direct effect on you every time you are arrested and may have severe repercussions for any resulting court cases. The Bill is due to complete its legislative passage when Parliament reconvenes in mid-October and to receive Royal Assent at the start of November, so unless the Government falls between now and November these provisions will become law (Editor's note: at the time of publication the law is now in force). The new law on the right to silence should be in force in March 1995.
THE PRESENT LAW
Traditionally a suspect has had a right to silence. This involved two propositions:-
(1) He could not be compelled to answer questions at any time, whether in the police station or in court He was not guilty of' any offence if he failed to do so.
(2) If he exercised his right of silence the court could not treat this as being evidence that he was guilty.
The first of these rules continues to apply. The Bill will virtually abolish the second.
THE NEW LAW
Clause 34: The essence of this clause is that it' you fail to mention a fact that you later rely on in your defence either when being questioned by police or at any time before you are charged "the court may draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper". This clause also applies if on being charged or officially informed that you might be prosecuted for it you fail to mention any fact that you later rely on.
Clause 35: This clause deals with giving evidence at your trial. Basically if you choose not to give evidence at your trial or having been sworn refuse to answer any questions, the court can draw whatever inferences they see fit.
Clauses 36 & 37: The essence of these clauses is that once you have been arrested, if a copper asks you to account for certain incriminating circumstances, and you refuse or fail to do so, then the court may draw such inferences as appear proper.
Following a fight, ..... is arrested nearby. His shirt is badly torn. He refuses to answer questions, despite being told by the police that they think his presence in the area, and his torn shirt are incriminating, and being told to account for them.
a) If at the trial he gave evidence that he was in the road repairing his sab van, and was wearing a torn shirt because he did not want to get a good one dirty, clause 34 would apply. His failure to mention these facts earlier to the police could make the court more reluctant to believe his story.
b) If he never puts forward any explanation of the torn shirt etc., clauses 36 & 37 would apply. His failure to account for the incriminating circumstances when called upon to do so by the police could count against him. Also, his failure to answer questions in court could count against him under clause 35.
The overall effect of the Bill is that in future if you exercise your right to silence the court will usually be able to inter guilt. The prosecutor. judge and any co-defendant may all comment dversely to the jury on your silence. However. silence on its own does not prove guilt. A person cannot be convicted, or even have a case to answer. solely because of an inference under clauses 34 to 37. Indeed in some circumstances it may still be possible to remain silent without inferences being drawn, for example:
- if questioning by other than by the police
- if you have not been cautioned at the time
- if you have some good reason for not answering questions.
At this stage, like all provisions in the Bill it is unclear how the new rules will be applied in practice. The Criminal Law Committee of the Law Society have issued advice to solicitors regarding the Bill; they are basically as follows:
a) If you are guilty of the offence but are unsure how much evidence the police have against you. the safest advice is to remain silent.
b) A judge will not always allow comment to be made about your silence. The less articulate you are, the less able to make a reasoned choice the more likely that a judge will not allow comment to be made.
c) Talking to the police could pose a greater risk of wrongful conviction if for example you are confused or in an emotional. highly compliant state of mind, or previous experience of the coppers concerned leads you to believe that the interview may be unfair or place you under undue pressure.
d) There should be no comment at court about your silence when there is an innocent explanation, for example you wanted to protect the identity of another person or were reluctant to admit having done something embarrassing but not illegal.
e) Clause 34 allows a court to infer guilt it' you rely upon a fact in your defence which you had not mentioned earlier, either when questioned or on being charged. There may be an advantage to remain silent during the interview and then make a considered statement on being charged of the tracts of which you intend to rely. This could either be a statement prepared by your solicitor in the cells or later, or one that you have written yourself. The police are obliged to give you pen and paper if you request it.
The effect of the Bill is that silence is probably no longer the best thing to do when you are arrested, but think carefully about what you do say and always speak to a solicitor before you are questioned and ask for their advice. BUT remember it is your decision whether to remain silent or not, not theirs.
A good solicitor will give you enough information to make an informed decision. (Never use a duty solicitor!)
Reproduced from HOWL (No 56, Winter 94) - magazine of the Hunt Saboteurs Association.
BM HSA, London, UK. WC1N 3XX
Telephone: (+44) 0845 4500727
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