Mr Peter Lewis, Chief Executive of the Crown Prosecution Service (letters, 29 December), says that it is wrong to imply that the CPS is "reluctant to, and does not, prosecute hunting offences".
I am one of the group of monitors who supplied the footage used in the RSPCA's successful prosecution of the Heythrop hunt, and we turned to the RSPCA because more than 30 similar previous submissions by us, relating to several hunts in several counties, had not been prosecuted by the CPS. The RSPCA saw that our footage was of a high standard and duly prosecuted the Heythrop.
Mr Lewis refers to the 371 offences that have been charged by the CPS under the Hunting Act, which is very good; but, with a few exceptions, these have related to the horrible activity of hare coursing, undertaken by a few yobs with lurchers. The prosecution of the wealthy and powerful organised hunts has been another matter, mostly conspicuous by its absence, and I hope that the success of the RSPCA's prosecution will now encourage the CPS to look with new enthusiasm at evidence of the illegal hunting of deer and fox by gangs of animal abusers.
The public need to know that these people are subject to the law of the land. The implementation of the Hunting Act cannot be left to ordinary citizens and charities.
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
The hunting law is not working. Hunting must be banned completely. So many hunts seem to believe that they are above the law and can continue regardless.
The Hunting Act was drawn up in such a way that the hunting brigade could still hunt. Unfortunately, they have abused it. If it were made a criminal offence even to hunt, there could be no dispute it.
Foxes would not get out of control if not hunted – contrary to Hilary Mills' suggestion (letters, 27 December). Not only do foxes control their own numbers, with some never breeding but acting as surrogate aunts, but more foxes are killed on the roads than are ever killed by huntsmen.
If the proper action had been taken by the authorities in the case of the Heythrop hunt, the RSPCA would not have been faced with such a huge bill. I commend the RSPCA.
P R Abbott
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Crucial details on gay marriage left unclear
Andrew Belsey (letter, 2 January) rightly draws attention to questions that will need answering if the law is changed to extend marriage to same-sex couples.
With regard to non-consummation and adultery, concepts that do not apply to civil partnerships, the consultation paper issued in March 2012 recognised that they would apply "equally to same-sex and opposite-sex couples", but then dodged the difficult issue by stating that "case law may need to develop, over time, a definition as to what constitutes same-sex consummation and same-sex adultery." The Government was promoting a major change in the law but leaving it to the judges to fill in the gaps.
In its response to the consultation, published in December 2012, the Government recognises that to leave the law in such a state of uncertainty would not be acceptable. Instead, the proposal is that same-sex couples will not be able to cite non-consummation as a ground for annulment. Thus, the problem of deciding what, if anything, should constitute "consummation" of a same-sex marriage is avoided. As for adultery, the proposal is to "maintain the current position with regards to adultery in marriage". As the Government explains, this means that if one partner to a same-sex marriage has sexual intercourse as currently defined (ie with someone of the opposite sex), the other partner could cite adultery as grounds for divorce. But if they engaged in sexual conduct with a third person of the same sex, their partner would only be able to cite this as unreasonable behaviour.
The other issues mentioned by Mr Belsey (consanguinity and incest) are not addressed at all.
All this shows that the previous Government was right in making clear, when it introduced the Civil Partnership Bill in 2004, that marriage was not to be affected. As Baroness Scotland said in the House of Lords: "This Bill does not undermine or weaken the importance of marriage and we do not propose to open civil partnership to opposite-sex couples. Civil partnership is aimed at same-sex couples who cannot marry. However, we continue to support marriage and recognise that it is the surest foundation for opposite-sex couples raising children." She was right, and the present Government should think again.
It is unclear to me why somebody who believes gay marriage to be wrong, as I do, must be "obsessively homophobic" (Owen Jones, 17 December). Indeed, despite what the gay community may think, or wish, I could not be less interested in their sexuality.
Civil partnerships already exist. So what appears to be foremost in the minds of the gay community are their rights: their right to use the word marriage, and of course their right to adopt children.
Nobody has a right to children. They are a gift, a huge privilege. The exercising of this "right" is a massive experiment by society. Children are not objects for us to use at our discretion. Actually, the children have no say in this whatsoever. Just the increasingly vociferous minority who will put their presumption to have this or that right above all else.
A culture of compassion
Compassion in the NHS is not dead but is in need of resuscitation. The Chief Nursing Officer for England has called for nurses, midwives and care staff to work towards "a culture of compassionate care". However, no one goes into the healthcare profession to be uncaring or to deliver mediocrity. They often have it thrust upon them due to relentless workloads and organisational constraints.
There are several examples of how the culture of caring can be reasserted. The first is developing the psychological resiliency of the front-line healthcare professionals (resilient workers are able to take care of themselves so that they can better take care of others), the second is promotion of health and wellbeing by workplace managers, and third is building compassion and patient dignity training into the curricula of healthcare professionals, both at student and post-graduate levels.
The College of Medicine is supporting research and evidence-based education that are highlighting the importance of compassion and care of patients and their carers.
Sir Graeme Catto
President, The College of Medicine, London SE1
Barbara Pensom (letter, 24 December) blames cuts for the loss of compassion and kindness in nursing. There are other important factors.
First, the effects of the wider, unkind society in which they have grown up and trained.
Second, their graduate status, which seems to have gone to their heads. Like so many other professionals, they feel so important and safe sitting safely at a desk ticking boxes and filling in forms while the ward descends into chaos.
If there is anything which defines a graduate job, it is that you don't go home until that job is properly done. It is also that you think and act pro-actively if conditions are such that the job cannot be properly done. Without these you are just a bad-tempered non-professional wet hen scurrying around blaming other people.
Amateur analysis of Bruckner
It is good to see someone standing up for Bruckner (Dominic Lawson, 17 December) after another writer described the composer as "the lumbering loony of Linz". But the suggestion that he was "an obsessive-compulsive with a counting mania" is just as wide of the mark.
Perceptions of Bruckner have long been plagued by amateur psychology. Two years ago, I heard a talk (given as part of the Bruckner Journal's biennial conference in Oxford) on his psychology, by a psychologist who concluded that Bruckner did not have an obsessive-compulsive disorder. Being liable to obsessive thinking at moments of stress is not the same thing.
Negative perceptions of the man might explain why so many people feel free to belittle his music. We all have our blind spots, but if we happen not to enjoy the music of one of the established greats, we usually acknowledge that the loss is ours. Why should it be any different with Bruckner?
What did Mitchell actually say?
You report that Andrew Mitchell MP has vowed to clear his name (22 December). We have already heard from him what he did not say in Downing Street. Please would you ask him what he thinks he actually did say? That should help a lot to explain what all the fuss is about.
Sir Reginald E W Harland
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
I agree with the new year resolutions for The Independent suggested by Dr John Coad (letters, 1 January), particularly the reference to the continued use of the suffix "-gate". However, I feel that your headline writers, by using the term "Plebgate" for articles on the affair at the Downing Street entrance, have missed out by not taking the rare opportunity to use the ultimate term: "Gategate".
G I Goodfellow
One of a kind
Your obituarist reports it being said that for Test Match Special, losing Christopher Martin-Jenkins is like the Amadeus String Quartet losing its first violin (2 January). When the Amadeus' viola player, Peter Schidlof, died in 1987, the surviving members decided to disband forthwith. I hope, despite our sadness, TMS will bat on without thought of a declaration.
Andrew McLauchlin (letters, 27 December) is wrong to say that the theme of greed "has been studiously avoided by clerics of all persuasions during the current crisis". I recall two articles over Christmas by the Archbishop of York arguing forcefully for the introduction of the living wage.
Viv Groskop makes it clear (27 December) that she is no fan of the Queen. I guess that's why she reckons that by conferring in her article a titular downgrade from HM to HRH, she will help create the first step towards a British republic.
Missing the point
The statement by the US National Rifle Association that "guns don't kill people, people do" may have an element of truth, but the rational conclusion is to stop giving guns to people.
Headley Down, Hampshire