Police save thousands by changing response to organised hunts

Riders head into Hadleigh before taking to the fields for Boxing Day hunt in 2017  Picture: ARCHANT

Riders head into Hadleigh before taking to the fields for Boxing Day hunt in 2017 Picture: ARCHANT

Police have saved thousands of pounds by changing the way officers respond to organised hunts.

Police attend a previous Easton Harriers' hunt at Wantisden  Picture: ARCHANTPolice attend a previous Easton Harriers' hunt at Wantisden Picture: ARCHANT

During the 2019/20 season, Suffolk police introduced a different method of responding to disorder or antisocial behaviour at organised hunts – with officers allocated in a ‘respond’ rather than ‘prevent’ function.

An annual rural policing report said the change in approach contributed to a reduction in hunt related public order and antisocial behaviour for the winter period.

As well as incurring a nil planned overtime cost, the new process helped reduce overall costs from £11,659 to just £292.68.

Hunting mammals with dogs has been illegal since 2005. However, the Hunting Act does not prohibit trail hunting – following a scent along a determined route.

Sergeant Brian Calver, from Suffolk’s rural crime team, said the force had been deploying units proactively, rather than reactively in response to the presence of hunt saboteurs or monitors.

“There are some weekends that the sabs or monitors would target certain areas and may not come to Suffolk,” he added.

“So you end up with a lot of officers being deployed, quite expensively, when there is no issue for them to police.

“We don’t get any heads-up as to whether or not the saboteurs or monitors were going to arrive.

“In order to reduce costs, it was decided we’ll ensure that all frontline officers receive training in relation to what should be done in order for it to be treated like any other matter looking at the threat, harm and risk – and it’s prioritised on that basis.

“That’s the thinking behind it, and it’s saved a vast amount of money and we did see a large reduction in calls last year.

“Any savings can be redeployed elsewhere.

“There’s many aspects of policing and we’ll look at where the funding needs to be put.”

The saving could help offset the cost of expanding the force’s drone capability.

Since 2018, Suffolk Constabulary has shared access to two drones with the fire and rescue service, county council, Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue, and Norfolk and Suffolk 4x4 Response.

A smaller additional drone, for use in rapid response situations, would cost between £2,000 to £3,000 – but could be cheaper if procured from another force – and could be offset entirely by the savings made during hunt season.

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