HSA news release 19th January 2005
Surrey Police allow illegal digging of badger sett to take place
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) drop Aggravated Trespass charges against hunt saboteurs - but only after expert evidence reveals a badger sett was dug into with the full support of Surrey Police.
On the 14th Feb 2004 at the Hampton Estate, Cut Mill, Nr Shackleford, terriermen of the Surrey Union hunt dug out and killed a fox which had sought refuge from the hounds in what appeared to protestors to be a badger sett. Prior to this six anti hunt protesters had been arrested for trying to protect the badger sett and stop the hunt from digging out the fox.
Urgent calls were made to Surrey Badger Group as the protesters thought the hunt were digging into a badger sett. Complaints to the police that the hunt were illegally digging a badger sett were met with the response: "They are allowed to do that and we will call up every available police officer in Surrey to stop you interfering" from one of the senior police officers at the scene.
Police officers from as far afield as Staines, Addlestone and Camberley ringed the badger sett whilst the terriermen dug down to the terrified fox.
Subsequent examination of the area in following days showed evidence of badger activity at the site.
Actions by the CPS were dropped in January 2005 against the majority of those arrested despite police efforts to hide the truth, but persisted against two hunt saboteurs.
Solicitors for the defence then engaged the services of one of the UK's leading badger experts, Professor Stephen Harris of Bristol University, who confirmed that the site dug by the hunt was an active badger sett. Digging a badger sett to get to a fox was made illegal in 1992 with the introduction of the Badgers' Act. Consequently the law on Aggravated Trespass should not have been used because any intended interference would have applied to an unlawful act.
All charges arising from the 14th February arrests have now been dropped.
Both hunt saboteurs and the Surrey and West Sussex Badger Protection Groups are now demanding tough action against Roger Nield (Inspector Operational Support) and Chief Inspector Duncan Greenhalgh, who authorised the arrests and allowed the hunt to dig the badger sett.
Jaine Wild from West Sussex Badger Protection group says: "I am disgusted at the biased and sloppy attitude of Surrey Police regarding Wildlife Law. I will be demanding a full inquiry into various officers involvement in this incident - they should be ashamed of themselves. They have no right to allow a hunt to dig into a badger sett and they are way behind other Police forces in their understanding and application of wildlife law. At least I can safely say that Sussex Police would not have allowed this to happen".
A local badger expert also commented: "It seems the only way the police would take action against a badger digger in Surrey is if they dug a badger in front of them, pulled it out and waved it in their faces saying 'it was me, I did it and I meant to dig that badger out'! I wouldn't hold out much hope for the badgers in that sett now - they will probably go the same way as all the others on that estate".
Note for Editors: The Surrey Union Hunt received a caution earlier this season for hard stopping badger setts on the Lukyns Estate near Ewhurst contrary to the Badgers Act 1992.
a caution earlier this season for hard stopping badger setts on the Lukyns Estate near Ewhurst contrary to the Badgers Act 1992.