DERBYSHIRE police have had to pay out £38,300 in compensation after 11 anti-hunt protesters were wrongfully arrested.
Lawyers for the protesters said they were not breaking any laws when, while following a hunt, they were chased and arrested before being handcuffed to each other and forced to walk across several fields.
Law firm Irwin Mitchell said that the protesters, from the Hunt Saboteurs’ Association, were “harmlessly” following the Meynell and South Staffordshire hunt when the incident occurred in January last year.
Irwin Mitchell negotiated an out-of-court settlement with Derbyshire Constabulary, for a combined total compensation of £38,300.
And it said the force, which admitted the incident was a “mistake”, has also agreed to destroy any new fingerprints, DNA records and photographs of seven of the protesters from the Police National Computer.
Iftikhar Manzoor, from Irwin Mitchell, said: “My clients were arrested under the Trade Union Regulations Act for disrupting a lawful activity, despite members of the hunt admitting they were no trouble or confrontation.”
He said several police vehicles and a police helicopter turned up at the hunt before formally arresting the protesters and taking them into custody at Derby.
“Sending several police cars and a helicopter to confront a group of peaceful hunt protesters seems to be a little over the top and the police need to ensure they have cause to make arrests before they take innocent people into custody.”
All 11 of the protesters were held in cells overnight, and then interviewed and released on bail the following day.
No charges were brought against any of them.
One of the protesters, Sarah Lloyd, from Nottingham, who received £3,500 in damages, said: “Although I am very pleased with the outcome of our claim, the compensation in no way exonerates the police. I hope that they have learnt from their actions.
“Hunting with hounds is illegal, yet many hunts are exploiting loopholes in the law to pursue their slaughter in the name of sport.
“As hunt saboteurs, we will always intervene, using non-violent tactics to save the lives of hunted animals, and we will never be deterred by the threat of heavy-handed policing.”
Deputy Chief Constable Alan Goodwin said: “Derbyshire Constabulary can confirm that it has come to an out-of-court settlement relating to the arrest of 11 people in January last year.
“A claim for unlawful arrest and detention was made against the force and an early offer of settlement was made.
“A total of £38,300 compensation was agreed.
“The force and individual officers will learn from the mistake.”