Police say Scottish fox hunting law 'unworkable'

fox hunt Image copyright AP
Image caption Using dogs to hunt foxes was banned in Scotland in 2002

The current law banning fox hunting in Scotland is unworkable, police have said.

The hunting of foxes with hounds was banned in Scotland under the Protection of Wild Mammals (Scotland) Act, which was passed in 2002.

But there are not thought to have been any successful fox hunting prosecutions since the ban was introduced.

And Police Scotland said the act creates a level of confusion which can deflect from the spirit of the law.

The assessment is part of the force's written submission to the Bonomy review on fox hunting laws.

The review by Lord Bonomy was ordered by Scottish ministers last year, and is expected to deliver its findings in the coming weeks.

The Police Scotland submission was among dozens from different individuals and organisations published by the Scottish government on its website on Monday morning.

'Lack of clarity'

In its submission, Police Scotland said terms such as "stalking", "searching", and "flushing" were not defined by the act, which creates confusion that can "deflect from the original intention or spirit of the legislation."

It added: "To make this legislation more effective and workable, offences need to be simplified and terms expanded.

"Exceptions to the offence to 'deliberately hunt a wild animal with a dog' are multiple and provide opportunities for exploitation by those who continually and deliberately offend.

"As a consequence of this lack of clarity, the police are, on occasion, unable to establish the high threshold of evidence required to prove and ultimately, report cases."

Image copyright jimfeng
Image caption There are not thought to have been any successful fox hunting prosecutions since the ban was introduced

Hunts are still allowed to use dogs to flush out foxes and chase them towards the hunts, where the foxes are shot - but there have been allegations that the law has been broken because guns have not been visibly present.

The Police Scotland submission states: "The current lack of clarity in the legislation can lead to allegations by those opposed to this form of pest control that 'guns were not in place' and this presents significant issues for those undertaking a lawful act, as well as those investigating alleged illegal activity."

It also said proving the "intent" of an accused individual was very difficult to prove because of the wording of the law.

'Really banned'

The force said any recommendations made to the Scottish Parliament must provide clarity to those undertaking legitimate pest control as well as those engaged in investigating illegal hunting.

And it said the aim of any amendments to existing legislation must be to ensure that the welfare of the mammal involved was the primary concern on all occasions.

Robbie Marsland, the Scottish director of the League Against Cruel Sports, said: "Our two-year investigation into the activities of Scottish fox hunts convinced us that they were driving a coach and horses through the present legislation.

"We agree with Police Scotland that the law as it stands is 'unworkable'.

"The Scottish Parliament thought it had banned fox hunting in 2002. Now is the time for the law to be strengthened and for fox hunting in Scotland to be really banned, for good."

The Scottish Countryside Alliance, which promotes hunting, is yet to respond.

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