HSA news release 11th May 2004
Hunt Saboteur wins £5,500 pay out from Wiltshire Police
Payout follows wrongful arrest at pheasant shoot
A hunt saboteur today agreed to accept a settlement of £5,500 from Wiltshire Constabulary in respect of a claim for wrongful arrest and subsequent false imprisonment dating from October 2001.
The arrest took place at Ham, near Hungerford, and the saboteur was one of a group of 11 protestors who located a pheasant shoot and used non-violent direct action to prevent further shooting*. The remaining 10 protestors are currently in consultation with the solicitors, Irwin Mitchell of Sheffield, with respect to other possible claims. The settlement was reached on the day the case was due to be heard at Swindon County Court.
The hunt saboteur, a male aged 27 originally from Bristol but now living in Reading, was arrested by police who attended the scene after the shoot had packed up for lunch. All protestors present were arrested on ‘Suspicion of ABH’ and held for an average of 10 hours at Swindon West Lea Police Station before being bailed to allow for further police enquiries to be made. Notice was issued in late December 2001 by Wiltshire Police to advise all those concerned that no further action was being taken, and it was at this stage that the saboteur decided to take up a civil case against them.
Dawn Preston, a spokesperson for the Hunt Saboteurs Association, commented "Here we see a clear-cut case of the police acting simply on the word of the bloodsports fraternity, and not stopping for one minute to consider the evidence in the matter. 11 people in total were deprived of their liberty, with the average time in custody 10 hours.
"All too often hunt saboteurs get a very raw deal from the legal system, so it's pleasing to report a case of justice winning through, albeit with the need for the saboteur concerned to fight for it! We can only hope the men and women of the Wiltshire Constabulary (and their police authority) learn from this costly lesson, and take a moment to stop and think about what they are doing in future before simply arresting protestors."
In our experience, the police generally act as the hunt or shoot's personal security force, yet when hunt saboteurs are victims of assault or criminal damage from the hunt side, they are told by the police to make a complaint at the local police station. Does this seem fair or impartial?
Somebody, somewhere in the police, police authority, crown prosecution service or the government should be asking why, after more than 20 years of losing in criminal and civil courts and paying out vast sums of taxpayers money in settlements and compensation, police officers on the ground still collude with hunters and shooters to routinely detain protestors. At the very least we should be told why they then take no action against the accusers for wasting police time.
Notes to Editors:-
- *It is standard shoot sabotage practice to simply walk up to the guns on a driven (stationary) shoot and stand next to the person with the shotgun, as under the British Association of Shooting and Conservation rules the shooter should immediately break his/her gun and lock it away for safety reasons, effectively preventing further shooting.
- Over the past 10 years, despite being arrested on hundreds of occasions on the say so of hunters and shooters, hunt saboteurs have fought those few cases that come to court and won the vast majority of them. Of those cases that are dropped or discontinued before getting to court - often after many months or years of prolonged pre-trial hearings and adjournments - hunt saboteurs have taken remedial legal action against the police to court and received in the region of £500,000 in civil claims compensation or 'out of court' settlements.
The solicitor in the case was the excellent Iftikhar Manzoor for Irwin Mitchell Solicitors.