[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 23 September, 2004, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Police deny 'excess force' claim
Exeter pro-hunt protest
The minister's vehicle was pelted with eggs by the 400-strong crowd
The Assistant Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police has defended the way officers behaved during a pro-hunt protest in Exeter on Wednesday.

Tony Melville was responding to allegations that officers used excess force to disperse the crowds.

Rural Affairs Minister Alun Michael's car was pelted with eggs as he left a meeting and barriers were pushed over.

But Mr Melville says the response of the officers was proportionate to the behaviour of the crowd.

He said the protest had been good natured for the most past, with only five arrests made for minor offences.

Police say there were approximately 400 people at the demonstration outside the Thistle Hotel where Mr Michael had been addressing a conference of the National Parks Authority.

But one pro-hunt supporter said: "People were frustrated. It's a whole way of life for people in the countryside.

"Everybody in the countryside is one - they all hunt, shoot, fish and keep the countryside going and this is how the government is treating them. It's terrible."

Protesters threw themselves in front of the car and others broke through police lines and barricades. 'Very angry'

Officers immediately surrounded the vehicle and tried to drag protesters from it.

The car, accompanied by a police vehicle, then raced off down the street.

A delegation from the Countryside Alliance met Mr Michael at the event and complained he had reneged on his promises to them over hunting laws.

Alun Michael
Earlier in the week Mr Michael had withdrawn from two events

Alison Hawes from the alliance said: "It is very sad what happened and I do not condone it at all but equally I understand it.

"I think you have to remember people have been here a long time waiting for Mr Michael to leave, very angry and frustrated that yet again he has failed to heed their concerns, saying that the future of the hunting bill now rests with the House of Commons."

Mr Michael said at an earlier press conference the parliamentary deadlock over the issue had to end.

MPs voted last week to ban hunting with dogs. The Bill must now go to the House of Lords.

Earlier in the week Mr Michael had withdrawn from two events after police advice about the protests.

He decided not to take part in walks to celebrate new right-to-roam walks on Sunday.

And on Monday police advised him not to attend the launch of the Friends of The Jurassic Coast organisation in Weymouth, Dorset, on Monday when 200 protesters gathered.

The BBC's Jon Kay
"Alun Michael... showered with abuse and pelted with eggs - and then worse"

Minister meets hunting protesters
22 Sep 04  |  Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific