Criminal Justice Act results: Convicted - 7.1%; Dropped - 43.6%
A dramatic new report on the first season of the implementation of the new offence of aggravated trespass created by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act shows the policy has been an expensive disaster.
Hunt saboteurs account for over 90% of the arrests made under the CJA since it became law in November 1994, with 154 saboteurs arrested or reported for summons under the CJA this season. In a humiliating defeat for the Home Secretary, only 11 of those have been convicted and one bound over, while 67 cases have been dropped before reaching court. This translates to a pitiable "success" rate of 7.1%, with 43.6% of cases being dropped.
Even worse for Michael Howard, who gloated that with this act he was "blowing the whistle on their [hunt saboteurs'] antics", the report shows that over 150 hunts have been hit by saboteurs this season, with over 1,000 individual meets attended by sabs. We have maintained our proud record of hitting hunts all across the country throughout the season, saving thousands of animals' lives.
The scaremongers' talk of jail for sabs has also been given the lie - the heaviest sentences to date have been £200 fines and some of those convicted have received conditional discharges. Less than £1,000 has been imposed in fines across the country as a whole - less than a pound for every hunting day lost to saboteurs.
Most police forces have been rightly 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 seen case after case being thrown out by the CPS and 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?
The new offence of aggravated trespass has failed in its primary aim: sabs are as active as ever and will continue to be so. It is time Michael Howard admitted that this is the latest in a long line of expensive policy failures and repealed the farce he calls a law.