Last legal hunt ends in violence
THE last weekend of legal fox-hunting erupted in violence in Essex as supporters and saboteurs clashed – leaving some people injured and resulting in three arrests.
THE last weekend of legal fox-hunting erupted in violence in Essex as supporters and saboteurs clashed - leaving some people injured and resulting in three arrests.
About 50 officers including 30 from Essex Police's special "silver reserve" were drafted in to deal with the last weekend of hunting before the historic ban is due to come into force on Friday.
One hunt supporter and two saboteurs, including a Colchester woman, were arrested on suspicion of assault as rival groups clashed at the Essex Foxhounds hunt in Little Bardfield, near Braintree, on Saturday.
Trouble flared shortly before midday when about 30 saboteurs from across East Anglia and the East Midlands converged on the fields and woodland of north west Essex.
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One group of protesters claimed they were ambushed by up to 40 hunt supporters near the River Pant, less than a mile from the hamlet of Hawkspur Green.
A woman saboteur said she was thrown into the river and had her head held under the water.
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Another woman was treated for a suspected broken jaw, later confirmed as severe swelling.
Others, including a man from Ipswich, said they were kicked and beaten on the floor.
Hunt supporters claimed they were also assaulted and as violence threatened to escalate, Essex Police called in back-up squads and a dog unit to track saboteurs' movements.
At one stage around 30 officers wearing protective uniforms lined a narrow road as protesters sprayed lemon juice into undergrowth - a tactic designed to put the hounds off the scent.
Allegations of damage to vehicles were also made by both sides with saboteurs forced at one point to change a tyre on their Land Rover, which they claimed had been slashed.
A saboteur, who asked not to be named, said they went to protect living creatures, but claimed they were on the receiving end of violence.
Liz Mort, spokeswoman for the Countryside Alliance, which is this week seeking an injunction on the hunt ban, said: "Four hunt supporters were attacked with weapons including wooden bars and three were taken to hospital."
A spokesman for Essex Police said: "We initially policed the hunt with standard numbers, some of whom were there to act as spotters to see what goes on.
"When there thee were outbreaks of fighting, we decided to call for our silver reserve back-up of between 24 and 30 officers.
"They were purely there as stand-by in case of further trouble and in the end they were not needed."
He said three people were arrested on suspicion of assault and later bailed. A 27-year-old Maldon man was bailed until March 31, a 26-year-old Thaxted man was bailed until March 23 and a 29-year-old Colchester woman until March 30.