On Saturday 5th November, five protesters were arrested at the Woodland Pytchley hunt at Stoke Albany, Northamptonshire. They were each held for around 8 hours at Corby police station, charged with aggravated trespass (Section 68 of the new Criminal Justice Act (1994)) and released on police bail. Three of those arrested were members of CABS and two of Northamptonshire Hunt Saboteurs. They are thought to be the first arrests suffered by Cambridge Anti-Bloodsports Society for 5 years and among the first in the country under the new law.
The first two arrests came about 5 minutes after the hunt began. The two are both members of Cambridge University. Tim Spencer was the first to be charged, for trespassing and blowing a hunting horn. Jamie Shaw, the first to be arrested, was charged with trespass and being in a group where hunting horns were blown. They were both arrested on a footpath and neither of them had a horn in their possession.
The other three were arrested in a tree where they were staging a protest against the Criminal Injustice Act. They were charged with trespass and blowing a tin whistle, (Whistles are not used in hunt sabotage!) The police decided to call the fire brigade to get the protestors down, although the protestors eventually came down voluntarily because the police appeared to be extremely incompetent at tree climbing and appeared likely to fall off if they tried it! It is interesting to note that the inspector in charge that day had not policed a hunt before.
Despite the arrests, the day was claimed as a victory by the hunt saboteurs as they were still effective and do not believe that the hunt killed that day. This proves that hunt sabotage can continue under the Criminal Justice Act, although we expect many more arrests.
All those arrested intend to plead not guilty to the charges. We will vigorously contest all these and future cases, if necessary as far as the European Court of Human Rights. They are facing up to three months imprisonment and a large fine for non-violent protest against an out-dated and barbaric practice.
Hunt sabbing is entirely peaceful and was lawful until this week, but now we have been criminalised. Eighty per cent of the population are against hunting, yet the government have banned saboteurs, not bloodsports. Banning sabbing will never work because there will always be people prepared to face any penalty to oppose hunting. Two saboteurs have been killed in recent years and many have been hospitalised due to hunt violence. The previous Saturday, Mr. Spencer himself had been ridden into and knocked down by a hunter. Direct action against hunting will continue until it has been abolished.