HSA news release 7th January 1995
Today at the Garth and South Berkshire Foxhunt's meet at Mortimer West End, South Berkshire, Hampshire police officers instigated an "arrest on sight" policy against hunt saboteurs at what had been a peaceful event until their arrival.
The Hampshire officers had been called in as Thames Valley Police only had 10 officers and five special constables available. Local police could only look on in amazement as the Hampshire officers arrested 10 protesters more or less on a whim. All those arrested are believed to have been arrested under the provisions of the new Criminal Justice Act, although many of the Hampshire officers were unsure as to what the law really meant. Thames Valley Police have so far adopted a low-key approach to the new legislation, and indeed saboteurs using the same tactics at a Garth and South Berks Hunt meet in the same area two weeks ago had a trouble-free day with no arrests and no trouble on either side.
Ignorance did not deter the Hampshire officers from making some highly tenuous arrests - it is reported that one man was arrested for aggravated trespass while he was on a public road! (Section 61.9 (b) of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act clearly states "land does not include land forming part of a highway..."). As if to further emphasise that they, not the local officers, were running today's operation, Hampshire police took all the arrested saboteurs to Basingstoke police station. We wonder if Hampshire police will be so keen to accept responsibility if the arrests subsequently turn out to be unlawful and if they will pay the costs of any subsequent civil action.
Taxpayers in the Thames Valley may well like to know why their local police force are so seriously understaffed. Where was the reserve that is supposed to be available to all areas to deal with routine public order situations? It would appear that there were only 10 police officers available in the whole of Berkshire.
It is believed that Thames Valley Police have "loaned" so many officers to Sussex police to deal with the demonstrations against live exports at Shoreham that they are unable to meet their own local policing commitments. It may well be significant that the Home Office have just announced that they are cutting the Thames Valley Police budget by some £9 million. Are Thames Valley Police so seriously overstretched that they are forced to seek "outside earnings" from other forces to supplement their budget - even at the cost of leaving their own area radically under-resourced? It is time the police got on with the job of fighting crime, instead of being expected to mess around at the whim of special interest groups such as foxhunts and animal exporters while struggling to cope with the sort of internal markets that have proved so destructive in the NHS.
Total number of saboteurs arrested under Criminal Justice Act to date: 95