Saturday, March 25, 2006


The Guardian

Members of the first hunt in Britain to be investigated under the Antisocial Behaviour Act were issued with warning notices yesterday.

After a failed attempt to prosecute the Cotswold hunt under the Hunting Act 2004, residents of Elcombe valley called on Stroud council and Gloucestershire police to investigate whether they could issue an asbo to members of the hunt.

Colin Peake, antisocial behaviour coordinator for Stroud district council, said yesterday he had issued a warning under the Antisocial Behaviour Act 2003 - a move which is one step away from issuing an asbo. "We are saying to three individuals from the hunt, your behaviour has come to our notice and it's not found to be acceptable," he said. "People might say this is not what the antisocial behaviour legislation is for, but the act says it covers actions which cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons. We wanted to find a suitable way of keeping harmony and this was it."

The warning notices were issued to Bob Cooper, senior master, and two joint masters, after several occasions in which the hunt was said to have trespassed on private land. Gloucestershire police investigated reports that the hunt was breaking the new anti-hunting law, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to take any action. One of the Elcombe residents, Jeanne Berry, then researched the use of asbos against the hunt.

A spokeswoman for the League Against Cruel Sports said she hoped the asbo warning would be the first of many. "Each week during the hunting season we receive many reports of hunts trespassing on people's land, terrorising their animals and livestock and causing havoc. This action will give hope to those who for far too long have suffered at the hands of the hunters," she said. There have been no prosecutions of hunts since the introduction of the Hunting Act, which banned hunting of foxes with hounds.

Mr Cooper yesterday said his hunt had not been breaking the law. He added: "We run a trail hunt in which we impregnate a piece of duster with live fox scent, trail that and follow the scent.
"But every now and again the scent of a real fox is far stronger than what we can produce and the hounds come off the trail. When that happens we have to go like hell to get the hounds back. We have never intentionally broken the law."

He denied the hunt had repeatedly trespassed over land in Elcombe.

"We have been issued with this warning letter and have spoken to the council. But we would resist any attempts to issue us with an asbo."

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