Cheshire police commissioner urges fox hunting law rethink

Fox Image copyright jimfeng
Image caption Cheshire Constabulary has never successfully prosecuted anyone for illegal fox hunting

The government is being urged to change fox hunting laws, after Cheshire's police commissioner said they presented "challenges to investigators and prosecutors".

A review ordered by David Keane said it was difficult to "secure sufficient evidence" for convictions.

Cheshire Constabulary has never successfully prosecuted anyone for illegal hunting.

The force said it was putting "hard work" into policing the practice.

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Assistant Chief Constable Nick Bailey said many of the review's findings were "already being implemented", but the force would keep the matter under review.

Mr Keane ordered the inquiry after Cheshire MPs raised concerns about a series of allegations of illegal hunting this year.

The commissioner admitted the county's force "appears to be at odds with the national picture" because none of its investigations had led to successful prosecutions under the Hunting Act.

He added: "The review is frank that the current legislation in the way it is drafted presents challenges to investigators and prosecutors.

"As such, I will be speaking with MPs to explore how such legislative change can be progressed through parliament."

Fox hunting: What is the law?

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
  • In 2004, it was made a criminal offence in England and Wales to hunt down and kill a wild mammal with dogs
  • In order to prosecute, a person must be shown to be intentionally hunting the animal
  • Pursuit of live animals has been replaced by trail hunting, which sees hounds and riders follow a pre-laid scent along an agreed route

The review looked at the way the force investigated allegations against those who participate in hunts and those who protest against or attempt to sabotage them.

It found investigations were "thorough and professional" but blamed "a combination of resource pressure, difficulties of obtaining evidence and the burden of proof" for the lack of successful convictions.

"This should not be seen as a lack of willingness to enforce the Act", the review said.

Cheshire Constabulary has passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service only once in the last three years.

It followed in incident in which a fox was allegedly killed when a hunt spilled onto a residential street in Macclesfield in 2017.

The CPS said there was not enough evidence to prove the animal's death was caused deliberately.

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