Saboteur alleges sex attack at hunt

FEMALE hunt saboteurs have been asked to demonstrate against a leading West Country hunt today after allegations that one of their number has been subjected to sexual assaults by hunt followers.

Police have warned leaders of the Hursley Hambledon hunt to expect trouble during their meet at Froxfield Green, near Petersfield in Hampshire. The protest has been called by the Hunt Saboteurs Association after a series of alleged assaults on Jo Harris.

Ms Harris claims that the attacks began after she had discussed her work as a rape counsellor in a local television programme, Loud and Clear, last October. She alleges that the trouble started at the following Saturday's meeting of the Hambledon and involved followers well known to her.

'The men turned round and said they'd seen me on the programme,' she said. 'There were a lot of threats and people trying to get into my vehicle. There was a lot of touching and grabbing my breasts, people exposing themselves.

'Last Saturday, with the hunt near Exton, I'd gone in a field and this group, including some men I didn't know, rushed me and told me to remove myself off the land. I said 'OK', and then they got hold of me so hard one arm went dead.

'One of the chaps was squeezing my breasts and they had a lighted cigarette, trying to burn my face but it didn't make contact because I was struggling . . . Then a policeman came up and said 'Release her immediately.' '

Peter Humphrey, master of the Hursley Hambledon, rejected Ms Harris' allegations of sexual harassment and said there would be no inquiry among the hunt's followers.

He said: 'Poor Joanne. I've known her for years. I think her problem is that local papers have stopped giving her publicity and she's got to find new sources. If she's got a genuine complaint she should go to the police.'

Ms Harris says the alleged assaults have made her question her future as a hunt saboteur. 'I'm very distressed about the whole business and don't think I can go on doing this much longer.'