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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 February 2005, 13:55 GMT
Hunt ban to be policed 'as usual'
Huntsman with hounds
Around 250 hunts met in the first weekend of the ban
The ban on hunting with dogs in England and Wales will be enforced like any other law by police and prosecutors, according to the attorney general.

Lord Goldsmith said enforcement would not be put on hold while a decision was made on whether the House of Lords will hear an appeal against the ban.

He made the comments amid anti-hunters' concerns that the police may treat the new Hunting Act as a low priority.

In a statement, he insisted: "The law will be enforced in the usual way."

Alliance appeal

Lord Goldsmith made it clear that he would not be advising prosecutors to avoid bringing cases against huntsmen.

"It is not for the attorney general to suspend an act of Parliament and introduce a blanket policy of non-enforcement," he said.

On Thursday, the pro-hunting Countryside Alliance lodged a petition with the House of Lords asking for leave to appeal against a Court of Appeal ruling that the Hunting Act was lawful.

The alliance had claimed that the 1949 Parliament Act, which MPs used force through the Hunting Act in the face of House of Lords opposition, was invalid.

It may be several months before the law lords announce whether or not they will hear the case.

Discussions

Lord Goldsmith indicated that a decision to hear the alliance's appeal could have an impact on any prosecutions brought in the meantime.

"Should the House of Lords agree to hear the Alliance's appeal, I will consider, with the DPP (director of public prosecutions), what implications this may have for any pending prosecutions and will make a further statement if necessary," he said.

The attorney general said he had met the DPP, Ken Macdonald, and the Association of Chief Police Officers, to discuss the implications of the first weekend of the 18 February ban.

Around 250 hunts met and 91 foxes were killed that weekend.

Lord Goldsmith said: "Though there are no prosecutions currently under way, these discussions have reinforced my confidence that there is adequate guidance in place for both police and prosecutors."

Warnings

It had been agreed that the police would investigate any breaches of the ban "in accordance with their normal procedures, making operational decisions in line with national and local priorities".

Decisions on whether to charge people for offences would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, which would decide whether to bring the case to court or to issue an informal warning or caution.

The Code for Crown Prosecutors provides that a prosecution will not take place "unless there is a realistic prospect of conviction and it is in the public interest to prosecute".




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