HSA news release 18th March 1995
Ten saboteurs were arrested today in what campaigners are claiming was a carefully sprung trap by Sussex Police to “show them who’s boss”. Some fifteen saboteurs had held a peaceful banner demonstration at the Chiddingfold, Leconfield and Cowdray Foxhunt’s meet at the Ship Inn, Harting, near Midhurst, and had gone on to follow the hunt.
At about 12.15 saboteurs drove along a public right of way to West Harting Down, which is National Trust property, and waited for the hunt which appeared shortly after. A police officer on a cross-country trials bike drove up and as the hunt passed demanded that saboteurs leave the land, which they were doing anyway. They went in the direction indicated by the officer and within minutes of starting along the track were blocked in by a police Land Rover. The van was quickly surrounded by police officers who appeared from nowhere. The police claimed they had heard a horn being blown and demanded that it be handed over or everyone would be arrested. No-one in the van had blown a horn and any such confiscation or arrest would have been unlawful: it was clear that this was a carefully sprung ambush.
By now, the saboteurs were afraid as to what the police were going to do next and so locked the doors to protect themselves. The van was by this time surrounded by some 25 police officers who began to use crowbars and other implements not usually carried by officers on routine patrol to force an entry in to the vehicle and began dragging out the occupants who were all arrested. None of the occupants put up any resistance but nonetheless, all were handcuffed using plastic ties and several sustained minor injuries and a doctor was called to attend to them at the police station. The van itself was completely stripped down and camera films and other items which are perfectly lawful have been confiscated.
The ten people arrested were held until the hunt was over, on the pretext of aggravated trespass, an obvious nonsense and then released without charge.
- Why did the officer on the trials bike direct the saboteurs to leave the National Trust property down a track that it subsequently transpired was not open to the public?
- Was it just coincidence that 25 police officers were lying in wait for them down this track?
- Do Sussex police carry crowbars and jemmies as a matter of routine or were they brought out specifically as the police knew in advance they were planning this type of operation?
- Was the whole operation not in fact a planned and deliberate ambush by police to arrest and intimidate as many saboteurs as possible?
In September 1990, 28 saboteurs were arrested in two similar operations in the Pulborough area by Susex Police. They launched civil action, claiming that the police had set out to carry out mass arrests irrespective of whether any offence had been committed to intimidate protesters and appease the hunt. The police settled out of court in January 1993, wishing to avoid having the courts examine their illegal actions, and paid out over £16,000 in damages plus a substantial amount in costs.