The County of Leicestershire describes itself as “The Heart of Rural England”, proudly displays a fox on the County Sign and is commonly called the home of fox hunting. This heritage is still apparent throughout the county with the all powerful “Shire packs” – The Quorn, the Belvoir, The Fernie and the Cottesmore riding roughshod over local communities and breaking the law with impunity.
In the past week alone Leicestershire Police have received three reports of illegal hunting by the county’s hunts. On Sat 8th January locals called the police because hounds from the Fernie Hunt had chased a fox through the village of Peatling Magna (www.leicestermercury.co.uk). The hunt incredibly tried to blame rain for the hounds getting away from the huntsman’s control. Surely up there with “the wrong type of snow” or “It was a work event” as one of the all time great excuses.
Events got even more ridiculous on Tuesday when locals in Belton, in the North West of the county rang 999 to say the Quorn hunt had chased a fox through the village. According to witnesses a lone Leicestershire Officer turned up, seized huntsman Ollie Finnigan’s phone and in the course of attempting this was elbowed in the face by the always short tempered Finnigan. Even more strangely no arrests were made as the lone officer was surrounded by angry hunters and felt it wasn’t safe to do so (www.leicestermercury.co.uk).
On Saturday the 15th January events took a tragic turn when the Belvoir Hunt chased and killed a fox despite the best efforts of sabs from Nottingham and Lincoln groups. Officers from Leicestershire Rural Crime Team were on hand, have taken the body for post-mortem and have taken the huntsman’s details for questioning but again no arrests have been made.
Amazingly this awful week didn’t even feature the notorious horse punching, sab assaulting Cottesmore hunt who are rarely out of the headlines.
When you delve a little deeper into why the local hunts feel themselves to be above the law it all starts to make sense. Rupert Matthews, the Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for the county has repeatedly refused to answer questions about his views on hunting but he follows several well known hunt supporters on Twitter including William Cross, Cottesmore Hunt stalwart and meet host.
Rob Cross, Leicestershire police constable harassed West Midlands sabs for years during their campaign against the Atherstone. Cross was friends with many individuals involved with the Atherstone and Fernie Hunts but Leics Police repeatedly denied there was a conflict of interest as the Atherstone repeatedly got away scott free with illegal hunting and assaults on sabs.
The Belvoir Hunt have famously close links to the Leicestershire establishment. Sharon Roscoe, Leicester police wildlife crime officer, was forced to stand down from the role when it became public that she rides with the Belvoir. Her mother, Bambi Hornbuckle, was long term hunt secretary and the family still host hunt meets. Further investigation also brought to light that Inspector Lou Cordinor from, you guessed it, Leics Police, also rides with the hunt and was pictured attending the Hunt Ball.
Bryan Lovegrove, a Belvoir stalwart, has taken on the role of chief steward, following and harassing sabs who are stopping illegal hunting. As if his behaviour isn’t inappropriate enough it appears much worse when you learn that he’s a Conservative Councillor for the Belvoir ward and sits on The County Council. We wonder about the conflict of interest that allows him to influence council policy during the week whilst being involved in illegal acts on a Saturday.