29 NOVEMBER 2019
Hunt saboteurs could be blocked from disrupting meets under Tory manifesto plans to make trespass a criminal offence.
The protestors have complained that the latest rules will make sabotaging hunts “almost impossible” as it will mean much greater penalties when they crossing private land.
Currently trespass is a civil offence, meaning police are unable to intervene and landowners are at risk of committing a number of crimes if they forcibly remove the trespasser.
The Conservative manifesto, for the first time since the ban was introduced in 2004, contained no reference to reviewing hunting laws.
Instead it contained a simple statement that a new Tory Government “will make no changes to the Hunting Act”.
But the saboteurs have vowed to oppose the promise to “make intentional trespass a criminal offence” which they say will curtail their activities.
The plans come under the manifesto pledge to get tough on crime which will also give police the power to “tackle unauthorised traveller camps”.
A group called the Cirencester Illegal Hunt Watch told its social media followers: “The Tories are planning to make trespass a criminal offence… This will make sabbing almost impossible and must be fought.”
It comes amid warnings that the tensions between hunts and saboteurs are escalating with balaclava clad protestors regularly disrupting legal trail activity.
Sharon Smith told the Fieldsport Channel that there has been an increase in the funding of sab groups and a growth in confidence from the protestors.
She said that the “escalation is ridiculous” and the law is “not there to look after us”.
Video Ms Smith posted from North Wales showed sabs wearing balaclavas swearing at her, squaring up to hunt members and swinging socks full of rocks toward a 12-year-old.
“I have seen many children absolutely terrified of them,” she said as she warned that police say that they are unable to intervene to protect them.
A landowner can sue for trespass in the civil courts. However, substantial damages are only likely when there has been physical damage or the landowner has been deprived of the use of the land.
Ed Rowlandson of the Countryside Alliance said: “Most people would find it incredibly odd that a policy which aims to crack down on illegal trespass, could be viewed as a negative development.
“Making intentional trespass a criminal offence is something law abiding members of society will agree with”.