The long awaited statistics relating to Hunting Act convictions in 2010 have now been published, clearly showing that this failed Act is now about poaching, not about hunting.
The statistics show 36 convictions under the Act in 2010, but only one involving a hunt registered with the Council of Hunting Associations. The rest were for offences, primarily poaching, that are not connected to organised hunting. Poaching has been an offence for many hundreds of years and existing legislation enables the Police to secure convictions for the offence outwith the Hunting Act.
The new Ministry of Justice figures take the number of people convicted between the Hunting Act coming into force in 2005 to the end of 2010 to 181, but only six of those relate to registered hunts. A staggering 97% of convictions relate to poaching or other casual hunting activities, including at least seven people who have been convicted of hunting rats.
The Hunting Act is being used almost exclusively by the Police to tackle poaching, lending a veneer of success-through-numbers to an Act that is now almost unanimously regarded as a dismal failure. Poaching was illegal before the Act and would continue to be illegal without it.
The MPs who railroaded the Hunting Act through in late 2004 acted out of spite and without any recourse to evidence or to the practicalities of what they were doing. The result is a piece of legislation that has comprehensively failed and these statistics hold a mirror up to that fact.
The Act, however, does continue to be a way for animal rights vigilantes to make allegations against hunts and waste Police, CPS and Court time, often at huge cost to taxpayers. No one takes any pleasure in the current situation. It is farcical and there is no case to be made that the Act is effective in any way.
Alice Barnard, Chief Executive, Countryside Alliance