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Now nobody with any sense really expected the boys in blue to really start cracking down on their red-coated chums after the hunt ban but the case of the South Down and Eridge hunt* really takes the biscuit.
*(SchNEWS' local as it happens – based just outside Lewes)
This year has seen two co-ordinated masked attacks on hunt monitors following the Eridge fox-hunt. The first, on the opening meet of the season saw four sabs beaten by a masked gang of ten men. Their camera which they say had gathered evidence of illegal hunting was stolen. Initially police refused to do anything but eventually arrested one man on the day. Two others were arrested later. However the investigation was bungled with the investigating officer initially denying any knowledge of the video of the attack and later after viewing it claiming it had no relevance.
Just two weeks ago the monitors who had been assaulted learned that all charges had been dropped against those arrested – apparently on the grounds that a photo of one of the hunt thugs had previously appeared on the Brighton Hunt Sabs Facebook page.
For a long time the Eridge were a kind of old ladies hunt – hideously vicious to any wildlife they chanced across of course but often bizarrely affable towards 'antis'. That changed with the arrival of David and Carolyn Fuller – who became joint masters of the hunt shortly after the Hunting Act 2004 technically made their past-time illegal. Huntmasters are, as the name suggests, in charge of the financial affairs and day to day running of the hunt – they're not to be confused with hunt servants who do the actual nasty business with the hounds and the fox. With the Fullers at the helm the South Down and Eridge became increasingly aggressive towards hunt monitors with numerous incidents of violence reported.
The hunting act, if nothing else, evened the playing field between sabs and the hunt – now the hunts had to pretend to abide by the terms of the act – at least while they were on camera. Hunts have tried various tactics to deal with this, claiming to be involved in exempt hunting or laying a conspicuous trail which isn't then followed by the hounds. In fact the almost total lack of interest shown by police forces across the country in enforcing the ban has meant that most hunts haven't had to try very hard to pretend they're not hunting animals for sport. There's one niggle that won't go away though – evidence gathered by independent monitors is increasingly being used to successfully prosecute hunts. One way of keeping that footage from even being filmed of course is to employ gangs of thugs to attack and intimidate those who take it.
But surely gangs of masked men attacking individuals, leaving them needing stitches and then stealing their cameras is something that police would simply have to act on? Maybe not - if those orchestrating the attacks are or were police officers themselves.
AN ERIDGE TOO FAR?
David Fuller runs a company called Just Cool It Ltd . In the blurb he boast “JCI was established in 2007 by it’s Managing Director David Fuller following his retirement from Sussex Police after thirty years service. Using his twenty years of skills as a Detective Sergeant, David has applied his commitment and professionalism into the refrigeration and catering hire sector” - Now if that doesn't send a shiver down your spine then the next item on the menu will. David's wife Carolyn Fuller (albeit under her maiden name Peate) runs Countryside Catering . SchNEWS had a quick squint at their client list. Funnily enough they managed to secure contracts with Sussex Police.
As one Brighton Hunt Sab put it “How can Sussex Police ever try and claim any amount of impartiality when it comes to dealing with and investigating hunting and hunt related violence, whether it be to our wildlife or the people trying to protect it. Something REALLY stinks in Sussex and it’s not what they spread on the fields.”
Onwards to Boxing Day – the most prestigious date in the hunting calendar. Sabs had bravely ventured back to the South Down and Eridge who meet in the centre of Lewes. The nature of the ground at this meet meant that the sabs and their vehicles were separated for most of the day. Towards the end of the afternoon a gang of seven balaclavaed men attacked one of the sab land rovers, while it was stationary smashing the windscreen and beating the driver with sticks before stealing his iPad and the vehicle keys.
One arrest was made on the day and SchNEWS anticipates that Sussex Police will of course investigate the offence as thoroughly as they would any other conspiracy to violent robbery, without fear nor favour as to who their old mates might be.
For more: http://southdownhuntsabs.wordpress.com/
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