NORTH Wales must not be a soft touch for people intent on defying the Hunting Act, an AM has warned.
New figures reveal that since 2006, there’s been no prosecutions for illegal hunting in North Wales, even though the police received 66 reports from members of the public who were certain it had taken place.
In nearly every incident, reported between February 2006 and March 2009, the reason North Wales Police gave for not pursuing the complaint was due to “no evidence of offences”.
Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths said: “I am disappointed by these figures. The statistics clearly demonstrate the incidents are not localised problems. The reported occurrences are spread geographically across the length and breadth of North Wales.
“Given this is predominantly a rural area and fox hunting is almost exclusively a rural activity, I would like to see a greater focus made by local police to ensure North Wales must not become a ‘soft touch’ location for those intent on breaking the law.
She added: “Of the 66 complaints made, I find it inconceivable that insufficient evidence was found in nearly every case.
“With this level of concern being reported in North Wales, it is essential the public have full confidence the police will fully investigate each suspected breach of the law.”
The practice of hunting with dogs was outlawed in the Hunting Act 2004 and came into force in the UK in February 2005, ending the killing of foxes with hounds.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, come following new guidance issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), under which police forces could stop monitoring hunts.
This, according to Mrs Griffiths, could leave the door open for hunts to take place illegally.
Under ACPO’s new guidance, hunts will also no longer be required to inform police in advance of the time, the place and the planned route for hunt meetings.
Douglas Batchelor, chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, said the police need to reclassify the way they deal with complaints of hunting.
He said: “The way in which police record incidents makes it difficult to see an overall picture in terms of illegal hunting.
“People have obviously seen activities going on which they feel do not fall within the Act. I think the police should take these into account. I’d personally like to see them reclassify or re-code the offences, rather than simply labelling them as wildlife crime or incidents of anti-social behaviour.”
The Daily Post approached North Wales Police with the FOI figures.
A police spokesperson said: “North Wales Police takes wildlife crime seriously and investigates all matters reported to us. The force has its own Wildlife and Environment Sergeant Rob Taylor, who is supported by 24 divisional officers who, apart from their everyday duties, have received additional training in wildlife crime investigation.
“In terms of complaints regarding illegal hunting, over the past 18 months, 22 complaints have been made to the force which represents a significant drop in the number of incidents reported to us.
“Every case reported is fully investigated and where there is enough evidence, prosecutions will be brought.”