Community Protection Notices – a new front in the fight against hunting?

Illegal hunting, road chaos, and trespass run rife in the hunting world, but police forces and local councils – with the help of hunt sabs – are increasingly using a new tool to combat this anti-social behaviour: the Community Protection Notice (CPN).

The newly amalgamated Puckridge & Essex Union Hunt have been served with a CPN by Hertfordshire Police. A similar approach “to tackle nuisance hunting” is being used by Northamptonshire Police’s Rural Crime Team who released a statement explaining their approach after receiving numerous complaints of Illegal hunting which included: Horses and hounds obstructing roads – 27%. Hounds out of control and chasing a fox or deer (including kills) – 19%. Trespassing on private land – 9%. Hounds out control in villages/gardens – 4%. Badger sett interference (filled in) – 23%, and reported anti-social behaviour -16%.

It’s not the first time a hunt has been issued with a CPN. In December 2022, the Warwickshire Hunt were served a CPN after fantastic work by West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs. No doubt we’ll be reporting further on the Warwickshire Hunt in the very near future, as they’ve vowed to fight the CPN and have their appeal date for later this month.

Warwickshire Hunt being a nuisance on the highway. Image via West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs.

We’re going to take a closer look at the ‘Notice’ served to the Puckridge & Essex Union Hunt, how East Herts Sabs along with neighbouring groups have helped secure this, what the police have said, and most importantly how the CPN will work in practice. 

Will the police be able to enforce the strict 16 point guidelines they’ve served the hunt with? It must be said the recent CPN’s are very much welcomed and hopefully show the way forward to other police forces, some of which have already promised to use this tactic as an alternative to the often difficult to enforce ‘Hunting Act’, against these nuisance and anti-social hunts. There’s also the possibility that Local Councils can serve hunts with CPN’s.

A statement on Hertfordshire Constabulary’s website stated “The notice was issued following an investigation by officers from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST). The Puckeridge Hunt had previously been issued with a Community Protection Warning (CPW) in 2022 after multiple reports of ASB by members of the group. The Essex Hunt was also issued with a CPW in 2022 by Essex Police. However, the behaviour continued, leading rural officers to seek a full CPN.”

They then go on to list the 16 conditions served on the hunt, which come into immediate effect. We’ll take a closer look at the conditions and try dissect how they’ll work in practice.

A fox hunted and killed by the Puckeridge Hunt on Boxing Day 2021. Image via East Herts Sabs.
  1. Create a map of where every/all trail(s) is (are laid – recording this on video on every hunt or training event and provide a copy of the same map and copies of trails within 48 hours of police request.

There are many difficulties the hunt will have with this. Firstly, their usual smokescreen/excuse when they are caught out chasing a fox is that the huntsman does not know where the trails have been laid, and that whilst he casts hounds into woodlands they are in search of the trail. An interesting term used by the police is “training events”, which will refer to cub hunting that will start soon. Hunts caught out cubbing often claim to be hound exercising and training. Handing over maps of these events will be problematic. Cubbing doesn’t look like full on hunting like later in the season, it’s therefore more difficult to try and portray their ‘smokescreen’ of ‘trail hunting’. 

Cubbing is much slower, the hounds will be sent into a woodland, coppice or a maize field where this years fox cubs are known to be, whilst the field riders and suppoRters surround the area beating their saddles and making noise to keep the fox cubs inside so that the new hounds can be trained to kill. The terrier men are also likely to be spotted here, either acting shady in woods or razzing around revving their quads to keep the cubs in covert. The hunt can spend the entire morning holding up just one area… How are they going to explain that one?

  1. Having a trail hunt member present with a copy of the map and knowledge of where the trail is laid on every hunt or training event/day.

We’ve covered this under condition 1. 

  1. If the hunt goes off trail, then the trail hunt is to be suspended immediately to reconnect with the trail.

It’s unclear from this just whose job it will be to say that the hunt has gone off the trail? And how will they know?  Will it be the police? The so-called  trail layers? The member of the hunt with the map? With the excuse used by hunts that the huntsman doesn’t know where trails have been laid, then surely they’d spend most of their time suspending the hunt to reconnect with the trail. Unless of course they will be telling the huntsman, which makes a mockery of hunts that claim otherwise. 

  1. If control of dogs is lost, then the trail hunt is to be suspended and dogs recalled with trail hunt only continued when full control is gained. 

Again,  this has been covered above. This condition alone will cause the hunt much disruption if it is stuck to. It very much sounds like the hunting day could be full of stops and starts.

  1. Take steps to ensure that no member of the hunt shall trespass on private land or public/common land where no permission is given/allowed and take action in relation to any members who show to have trespassed. 

Why does the hunt need telling this? Isn’t that just common sense….  Will this also apply to terrier men riding their quads on public bridleway? Of course, trespass occurs because hunts pursue foxes wherever they run.

  1. Not to enter nature reserves or any SSSI (sites of specific scientific interest) under any circumstances.

This should really go without saying, however just look at who we are dealing with.

  1. Gain prior written permission from any landowners giving permission for their land to be used for trail hunting activities and have one person present with a copy of permissions for land use on any and all hunt days or training events. 

Under section 3 of the Hunting Act a landowner can be prosecuted for knowingly allowing an illegal hunt on their land. Let’s hope some landowners have some sense and refuse the hunts permission.

  1. Not to block or cause disruption to the highway and to consider applications for traffic management orders (TMO) when it’s reasonably foreseeable that a disruption to the highway will cause local issues (such as larger meets, for example Boxing Day) or alternatively, make an application for a TMO where hunt is likely to be active in relation to areas of public highway.

If you’ve ever had the misfortune of coming across a hunt on narrow country lanes you’ll understand the chaos they cause, often deliberately using field riders, hunt supporters and overly loaded terrier quads the block to roads in an attempt to slow down sabs. During cubbing you’ll even find field riders standing on-point on roads at the sides of woodlands and maize fields stopping the cub from escaping. 

Hunt goon from the Essex with Farmers & Union hunt just after driving at sabs. Image via Suffolk & Essex Hunt Saboteurs.

9. Not to allow hunt hounds loose in the vehicular/pedestrian carriageway and in such a manner as to be likely to cause a nuisance to road users.

Again on hunt days it’s a regular occurrence for hounds to be out of control on public highways as they pursue foxes left, right, and centre. Many hounds have been killed on roads and even railway lines. 

10. To endeavour to pick up hound faeces that’s left on the verge, highway, bypass or other public places (not inclusive of the vehicular carriageway). 

This is something all hunts should already be doing, but the law rarely seems to be enforced against hunts. Some of the Southern sab groups have had great success with reporting hounds fouling which has resulted in hunt members following behind picking up the faeces, to their utter disgust.

11. Take steps to ensure no member of the hunt shall abuse members of the public or landowners when being asked for information or requesting the trail hunt leave their land or remove the dogs from the road and take disciplinary action against any such members where applicable.

Hunt members should not be abusing people in the first place, however they do seem to think they are better than the rest of us. 

12. Notify police at least 24 hours  in advance when and where a trail hunt (event or otherwise) is to occur by contacting the local team liaison or via force control room (101 or email) and provide a map of the area where the hunt trail(s) will be set including proposed crossing points of public highways.

Submitting maps has been addressed in other areas here. It is good that the hunt are now legally obliged to supply the meets 24 hours in advance, as groups have reported on hunts hesitation in telling the police the meets. One group said their police force had told them that the hunt is only telling them late the night before as they claim to fear the police will pass the meet to the sabs, the police said this makes it difficult to plan ahead for the hunt day.  Another said that the hunts just are not liaising with their liaison officers.

13. Notify police at least 24 hours in advance hunt staff will be participating in and all pre-hunt activity (e.g cubbing season or unofficial hunt days) and provide details of who will be present and where/when (date/time) this activity will take place.

Nice use of the word cubbing there – an activity that was banned by law 18 years ago! We’re sure the hunt wouldn’t rather try and dress it as ‘autumn hunting’ or ‘hound exercise’. Will the hunt be providing the police with details of the terrier men? Will the hunt be providing the times when the terrier men are in the area – blocking earths and trapping cub above ground –  prior to the hunt starting? 

The Puckeridge Hunt with hounds all over the road. Image via East Herts sabs.

14. Take steps to ensure that no member shall act in a manner that is likely to cause a nuisance or annoyance to others when in a public or private place, this includes words or behaviour that are offensive, threatening or abusive and can be towards members of the public or police.

Most decent folks wouldn’t need to be told this, but when you think you’re about the law and can do as you please.

15. Have a list of members who are riding/working with/for the hunt available for police on event days (including support staff/terrier men)

This may be very off putting for certain members of the hunt. It’s a regular occurrence when a member of a hunt assaults a sab that the hunt will claim they do not know the person, which results in them getting away with it. A good call to ask for the terrier mens name, despite the irony that terrier men should not be on a trail hunt in the first place.

16. The Puckeridge Hunt will engage with the police in respect of the requirements above and provide evidence of all and any steps they have taken to secure compliance, promptly when and if required to do so.

Indeed if the hunt sticks to the 16 conditions above, they’ll find it extremely difficult to hunt foxes and be a public nuisance, let’s hope they don’t see that as a challenge.

East Herts Sabs commented: “Having been involved with both these hunts alongside numerous other sab groups and the local monitors, we are delighted to report that the CPN has now been served.

Our evidence has been crucial in highlighting their anti-social behaviour and trespassing. We sabbed the Puckeridge regularly throughout each season since 2019 and feel we’ve been instrumental in their demise having been involved in stopping them from blocking badger setts,losing hunting permission, decreasing their field numbers and highlighting their unlawful activities on social media which we believe has partly led to their amalgamation. 

Our statements and video evidence contributed to the hunt being served with a CPW  by  Hertfordshire Constabulary’s ROST in October 2022 which they have repeatedly breached and our footage helped to bring their huntsman to court for illegal hunting earlier this year. The 2022/23 season saw us focusing once again on the Puckeridge Hunt alongside East Northants Hunt Sabs and Herts Wildlife Monitors and the evidence obtained and submitted of the hunt and its behaviour contributed to the CPN that has been served. Well done to ROST, all groups involved and local residents who reported trespassing and anti-social behaviour.”

Well done to all the sab groups involved in helping to secure this CPN, and good luck for the upcoming season. The conditions set by the police here will go a long way in stopping the hunt from carrying out unlawful activities and being a public nuisance, if kept to. We’ll all be watching very closely to see how this notice will work in practice. 

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