Police chief 'ready for hunt ban'

THE Chief Constable of Suffolk last night insisted his officers were ready to enforce the new hunting ban – despite fears it would make the county's thin blue line even thinner.

THE Chief Constable of Suffolk last night insisted his officers were ready to enforce the new hunting ban – despite fears it would make the county's thin blue line even thinner.

Alastair McWhirter was speaking ahead of a series of high-profile hunt meets in the region today – the first since the ban came into force.

He said he was sure the force had enough officers in place to tackle the day, but urged people on both sides of the dispute to be "sensible".

Mr McWhirter said: "I'm confident that we've got sufficient officers to deal with the issue. We will enforce the legislation and we will deal with it, but it's going to be challenging because it's new for everyone.

"We will be watching to see how people react to the legislation and if people break it we will prepare a file and send it to the Crown Prosecution Service."

Officers have received guidelines about how to enforce the new laws, Mr McWhirter added.

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A total of six hunts are meeting in Suffolk and Essex today. Despite the new laws, the undertaking of "drag hunts" – where hounds follow an artificial scent – is still being permitted.

Mr McWhirter continued: "We're expecting a series of demonstrations. They know that we will be policing it from the point of seeing that the law is complied with."

However, Liz Pettman, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, voiced her fears that enforcing the new ban would stretch resources.

She said: "This is just another call upon our officers. It's another way that resources will be stretched, but it's something that we are used to managing.

"Anything like this which stretches resources certainly has an impact short term on local service delivery.

"But I think it's early days in terms of seeing how this hunting legislation will affect us in terms of resources. We will be watching Saturday very carefully."

On enforcing the new rules, Mrs Pettman said: "We've known for some time that this was going to be a difficult law to police.

"It's one where feelings run high on both sides. There are people who I'm sure will want to show their concerns, both in terms of protesting against hunting and for it as well.

"That will create additional work for us – and there's the difficulty in actually policing it. We have to see the mammal that the dogs are chasing and we can't go on land to arrest people.

"But I'm sure we will find a way to police it and enforce the laws. We have to do our best with the legislation to enforce it fairly and in the way it was meant."

n The Waveney Harriers gathered in the grounds of a top independent school in Southwold to hunt hares for almost the last time this week – and ran into controversy.

It was the first time in their history they have hunted from St Felix Schools and it brought a protest from a parent with pupils at the school, who said she was disgusted at the move.

But headmaster David Ward vehemently supported its decision to allow the historic hunt, formed in 1720, to meet there on Wednesday – and said he hoped it would do so again.

"They have met here and gone from here to hunt on neighbouring farmland. The school governors very much support hunting. I don't hunt, but my daughters have been hunting for five years and seven or eight children from the school joined today's hunt," he said.

n A meeting of the East Anglian Bloodhounds will go ahead tomorrow as planned.

The meet will start at midday at Dines Hall, Little Maplestead, Essex.

We have been asked to point out that sporting activities involving bloodhounds are not affect by the Government's recent ban on fox hunting and can continue to be carried out legally.

n A special regional programme looks at the final days of foxhunting before the ban on hunting with hounds came into force on Friday.

Outfoxed, on BBC1 tomorrow (Sunday 20) at 11.10pm, replaces Billy Connolly's World Tour of England, Ireland and Wales.

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