HSA news release 17th December 1994

Northamptonshire police were sorely overstretched today as they tried to cope with the effects of the new measures against hunt saboteurs in the Criminal Justice Act.

Saboteurs in Northants had successful days at the Grafton Foxhunt, the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Foxhunt and the Woodland Pytchley Foxhunt, saving many foxes, while the police struggled to cope.

A carload of saboteurs first arrived at the Grafton Hunt meet at Astwell and a police van was dispatched from Brackley division to deal with them. Meanwhile, a vanload of saboteurs was arriving at the Bicester Hunt meet at Marston St Lawrence. Brackley were unable to field another van and so the two hunts had to be policed by the one vanload of officers who struggled to flit between the two. Saboteurs had successful days at both hunts, preventing the hunts from killing any animals, despite the usual aggression and intimidation from the Bicester Hunt. In one incident, a local landowner was ridden into a ditch by hunt members when he tried to object to the hunt trespassing.

Meanwhile, saboteurs arrived at the Woodland Pytchley Foxhunt at Woodford. Kettering police fielded three vans, each containing only three or four officers, who made no difference to saboteurs whatsoever. The hunt was reduced to a shambles: by 2 o'clock, there were only six riders left and by 2.45 the hunt decided to call it a day. Saboteurs preparing to leave were somewhat surprised to see Kettering police bring in a dog handler's van and an extra riot van at 3.00.

Unable to carry out any arrests or do much other than watch saboteurs at the Woodland Pytchley, the Kettering officers seem to have decided to take out their frustration on saboteurs at the Bicester with Whaddon Chase Hunt. Pouring themselves into one van, the Kettering officers made the hour-long journey across the county to arrive as the hunt had more or less finished. They leapt out of their van and began pushing and grabbing saboteurs who were standing on a road; Brackley police were forced to intervene to prevent their wound-up colleagues from carrying out this series of low-level assaults. The Kettering officers then excelled themselves by standing in the way of the saboteurs' van to prevent them from leaving when the hunt had finished. Their colleagues from Brackley again had to persuade them to desist and apologised to saboteurs for the Kettering officers' behaviour. Saboteurs looked on in amazement as the police argued among themselves. A local saboteur commented "It was an astonishing tantrum. You don't expect this sort of behaviour from grown-ups, much less police officers. It seems they [the Kettering police] were just so annoyed at being given the run-around at the Woodland Pytchley, they were looking for someone to take it out on."

Once again, we ask how long are police expected to waste valuable time and resources on Michael Howard's ridiculous prejudices? Saboteurs will continue to save lives as effectively as we did yesterday in Northants and elsewhere, irrespective of the Criminal Justice Act. The people who are really suffering under this act are the taxpayers who are not receiving the service they should expect from the police, because they are too busy messing about hunts.