Police watchdog considers complaints over Boxing Day hunt meet violence

Man arrested as evidence of officers’ conduct examined

Jane Dalton
Friday 14 January 2022 13:32
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<p>Fighting broke out as pro- and anti-hunt crowds confronted one another</p>

Fighting broke out as pro- and anti-hunt crowds confronted one another

A police and crime commissioner is reviewing complaints about how police dealt with a fight at a Boxing Day hunt meet.

It is thought at least two people were injured after people were seen throwing punches as crowds of hunt supporters and opponents gathered in Lacock, Wiltshire, where the Avon Vale Hunt was meeting on Monday.

A man was arrested on New Year’s Eve on suspicion of affray.

Chants of “shame on you” were heard amid the scuffles and aggression.

The Wiltshire Office of Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) says it has received “correspondence” over the violence.

A statement by officials said they were aware of an “incident”, adding: “Any correspondence received about the conduct of Wiltshire Police relating to this incident is in the process of being assessed by the OPCC complaints team.

“This ensures investigative independence and oversight.

“All correspondence will be handled in a fair, open and honest way and will be handled as efficiently as possible, with correspondents being advised of the outcome.

“Should a legally eligible complaint be confirmed as made, then the official complaints process will be followed.”

For a complaint to be eligible, the complainant must have directly witnessed the incident or been directly affected by it.

Video of the scuffles showed a placard being damaged as a blow was aimed at a man’s head and a grey-haired woman being pushed to the ground.

Wiltshire Police said it would be inappropriate for the force to comment on the complaints under review.

But on the violence, they said in a statement: “Officers investigating a disorder at the Avon Vale Hunt in Lacock earlier this week are progressing with enquiries.

“The hunt took place in the village during the morning of 27 December. Following the incident, video footage of disorder was posted on social media and extensive enquiries to identify those involved have been ongoing.

“Today, a man in his 30s from Westbury was arrested on suspicion of affray and taken to Melksham custody for questioning. He has since been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

“We have received a number of calls from members of the public with information in relation to the incident. We’d urge anyone who was present who may have information which could help our enquiries to get in touch, as well as anyone who may have their own footage of the incident.”

A spokesperson for the Avon Vale Hunt said they did not know the circumstances of the incident but added: “We do not condone violence even in the case of extreme provocation by anti-hunting protesters whose sole purpose is to antagonise those supporting a lawful activity.” They said: “We do not know if any hunt supporters were involved but we would like to thank the many hundreds of people who peacefully attended in support of our hounds.”

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