Hunting ban 'not enforced properly' in South West

Horse and huntsman Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Figures obtained by the BBC show no prosecutions were made in Devon and Cornwall since the bill was introduced

Opponents of wild animal hunting claim the fox hunting ban, in force for more than 10 years, is not being properly enforced in the South West.

Under the Hunting Act 2004, foxes cannot be killed by dogs as part of a hunt in England and Wales.

The claims come after figures obtained by the BBC show no prosecutions have been made in Devon and Cornwall since the ban was introduced.

Devon and Cornwall Police said it would "always consider any evidence".

However, the force has made two arrests on suspicion of illegal hunting, in 2011 and 2014, a freedom of information request has shown.

Although private prosecutions have been mounted by the League Against Cruel Sports, and the RSPCA, there have been no cases brought on the basis of police investigations.

Image copyright Getty Images

Analysis: Simon Hall, South West Home Affairs Correspondent

Hunting was a major issue throughout much of Tony Blair's government but with the introduction of the ban it became much less prominent.

That could change after the general election, as there are clear differences between the main parties which could see the law revisited.

Labour has promised to defend the ban, the Conservatives say they will offer parliament a free vote on repealing it, while the Liberal Democrats say hunting is not a priority, but would allow their MPs a free vote if the issue arises.

Peter Anderson, a trustee of the league, said: "Devon and Cornwall Police has not viewed the ban as a priority and enforced it properly, which is very disappointing.

"There have been large numbers of prosecutions in other regions, which show the ban works."

But Tim Bonner, director of campaigns for the Countryside Alliance, said: "These figures show the Hunting Act was a waste of 700 hours of parliamentary time.

"It isn't working and just leads to unfounded allegations of criminality against law abiding people."

The law in England and Wales governing hunting with dogs

Image copyright Getty Images

You cannot use dogs to hunt foxes, hares or deer

You can use dogs for:

  • Stalking and flushing out - but only to control pests, eg hares, and only if they are shot as soon as possible afterwards
  • Hunting rats and rabbits
  • Retrieving hares that have been shot
  • Drag hunting and trail hunting

In a statement, Assistant Chief Constable Paul Netherton said: "Devon and Cornwall Police will always consider any evidence brought to our attention regarding the Hunting Act - and any other crime.

"This will be investigated proportionately and advice sought from the Crown Prosecution Service as to any charging decision."

Devon and Cornwall makes up one of the most heavily hunted areas of Britain.

Parliament passed the Hunting Act in late 2004 and violent exchanges between enthusiasts and opponents were widely reported.

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