NORTH Wales must not become a ‘soft touch’ for illegal hunting says Wrexham’s Assembly Member, Lesley Griffiths.
She has spoken out following the publication of police figures which reveal that in the past three years not one single prosecution has been brought in the region as the result of reports from the public about suspected illegal hunting.
Between February 2006 and March 2009, 66 incidences of alleged illegal hunting took place.
In nearly every incident, the reason North Wales Police gave for not pursuing the complaint is recorded as ‘no evidence of offences’.
Six of these reports came from Wrexham and a further two from Llangollen – the last of which was made on January 17 this year in Llangollen.
The practice of hunting with dogs was outlawed in the Hunting Act 2004 and came into force in the UK in February 2005, ending what supporters claim is was the ‘barbaric’ killing of foxes with hounds.
The publication of the information – obtained under the Freedom of Information Act – comes following new guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), under which police forces can choose to stop monitoring hunts.
This, fears Lesley Griffiths, could leave the door open for hunts to take place illegally.
Under ACPO’s new guidance, hunts will also no longer be required to inform police in advance of the time, place and route for hunt meetings.
Ms Griffiths said: “I am disappointed by these figures. The statistics clearly demonstrate the incidents are not localised problems.
“The reported occurances are spread geographically across the length and breadth of North Wales.
“On average, there are over 30 reports of illegal hunting being made each year.
“Given that North Wales is predominantly a rural area and fox hunting is almost exclusively a rural activity, I would like to see a greater focus made by local police to ensure North Wales must not become a soft touch location for those intent on breaking the law.”
She added: “Of the 66 complaints made, I find it inconceivable that insufficient evidence was found in nearly every case.
“With this level of concern being reported in North Wales, it essential that the public have full confidence that the police will fully investigate each suspected breach of the law.”
A spokesperson for North Wales Police said: “North Wales Police takes wildlife crime seriously and investigates all matters reported to us.
“The force has its own wildlife and environment sergeant Rob Taylor, who is supported by 24 divisional officers who, apart from their everyday duties, have received additional training in wildlife crime investigation.
“In terms of complaints regarding illegal hunting, over the past 18 months 22 complaints have been made to the force which represents a significant drop in the number of incidents reported to us.
“Every case reported is fully investigated and where there is enough evidence, prosecutions will be brought.”