Mask removal powers not used against Sussex hunt protestors

Fox hunt protesters in Lewes on Boxing Day
Fox hunt protesters in Lewes on Boxing Day

Hunt protestors have never had their masks removed in Sussex since 2013 by police despite having the power to do so, according to new research.

The Countryside Alliance found Sussex Police has only used the power to remove face coverings once in three years but never to identify hunt saboteurs.

Nationwide the law has only been used once for this purpose and the campaigners believe many criminals have not been prosecuted because they could not be identified.

“In the past three years there have been a number of cases where hunt staff and supporters have been viciously attacked by animal rights activists wearing balaclavas, but no-one has ever been brought to justice for these crimes,” alliance chief executive Tim Bonner said.

“Extremists know that wearing face coverings masks their identities and makes prosecution unlikely, and also that it intimidates those who they are protesting against.

“Yet the powers to remove face coverings have been used more often at football matches than they have at hunts.”

Police and crime commissioners and Chief Constables claimed they were happy with the law as it stands despite a complicated process which requires written permission from a senior officer before police on the ground can remove balaclavas and other face coverings.

Freedom of Information requests to all police forces in England and Wales revealed just one example of the powers under Section 60AA of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act being used against hunt saboteurs - by Derbyshire Police near Buxton in January 2014.

The power has been used by 10 other police forces since 2013 with Sussex Police using it at Brighton Pride in 2014. Mr Bonner said it was ‘ridiculous’ that officers needed permission to remove masks from potentially dangerous individuals in order to identify and arrest them.

Sussex Police declined the opportunity to comment.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be amongst the first to know what’s going on.

1) Make our website your homepage

2) Like our Facebook page

3) Follow us on Twitter

4) Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends - so they don’t miss out!

Always the first with your local news.

Be part of it.