A leading animal welfare charity is targeting Norfolk and Suffolk in its efforts to catch people illegally hunting.
The League Against Cruel Sports plans to invest more than a million pounds over the next four years on hiring investigations staff and equipment to gather evidence and get hunts into court. Despite polling showing that three quarters of the public support the ban, the League believes that the majority of hunts are flouting the law.
Advertisements for the League’s ‘Hunt Crimewatch’ service appear in the press today (Saturday).
“This is the seventh hunting season under the ban, but all the evidence suggests that hunts are getting more lawless than ever.” said Joe Duckworth, the League’s chief executive. “Appointing investigations officers around the country will enable us to increase our efforts in gathering evidence for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service.”
The League employs retired police officers who review evidence and provide training on the Hunting Act to serving officers.
Two weeks ago, after an undercover investigation by the League, two staff from the Fernie Hunt in Leicestershire were convicted of breaking the Hunting Act and the Protection of Badgers Act and ordered to pay more than £10,000 in costs and fines.
The judge in the case praised the League’s investigations work and said the hunt was engaged in ‘cynical subterfuge’ by pretending to trail hunt.
The League’s ‘Hunt Crimewatch’ service gathers information and intelligence on hunt related crime, and passes information to police forces and the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Adverts carrying the Hunt Crimewatch number are also appearing in regional newspapers across England and Wales from today.
“Our focus is not only on the illegal hunting, but on all the crimes committed by the hunts,” said Mr Duckworth. “Hunts cause all manner of anti-social behaviour, from blocking roads, running hounds down railway tracks, and savaging pets in people’s gardens. This pernicious side of hunting is often unseen but it has the biggest effect of people in rural communities.”
Recent incidents reported to Hunt Crimewatch include foxes being killed, hunt hounds running along main railway lines, hunts blocking country lanes, and even hunt supporters threatening members of the public.
“Our message to hunts is very clear. There are more cameras, under more bushes, operated by more investigations staff than ever before. Hunt within the law or expect to he held to account for your actions,” warned Mr Duckworth.