Pro-hunting campaign group hits out at PCC plans for independent review
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Plans to hold a review into the way hunts are policed in the north of Wales have been slammed as an “unnecessary political vanity project”.
The Countryside Alliance has accused North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin of having “prejudices against rural people” and called for him to spend taxpayers’ money elsewhere.
It follows the Labour PCC inviting tender bids of up to £20,000 from contractors to undertake an independent review of hunting in the region.
The review, which will consider the way North Wales Police oversees the enforcement of the Hunting Act, has been welcomed by anti-hunt campaigners.
It comes after claims were made that the police force has previously shown “no interest” in taking action against illegal hunting.
However, those in favour of hunting have accused Mr Dunbobbin of wasting money after insisting hunts in the area are conducted lawfully.
‘Political vanity project’
In a statement issued to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Rachel Evans, director of Countryside Alliance Wales, said: “It will come as a hefty blow to taxpayers in North Wales when they learn that their Police Crime Commissioner is prepared to pump their money into what can only be described as an unnecessary political, vanity project.
“Hunts across Wales take part in a lawful activity, but sadly do routinely face spurious accusations from animal rights activists.”
Mr Dunbobbin previously described the law on hunting as “far too weak” and “not fit for purpose” in a post on Twitter.
His proposed review of the policing of hunting has also drawn criticism from his Plaid Cymru predecessor Arfon Jones, who said the issue fell outside his remit.
Mr Jones, a former police inspector, said: “He’s naive to get involved in an operational policing issue, which he shouldn’t do anyway.
“If he was that concerned about the way hunts are policed then he should’ve asked for advice from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary on how to go about it and whether they could assist with a review.
“You can’t have just anybody coming in to do a review of operational police matters because there’s police procedures and confidentiality involved.”
But the review has been welcomed by the North Wales Hunt Saboteurs group, which campaigns against hunting in the area.
A spokesperson said: “For seventeen years since hunting with dogs was outlawed, hunts have gotten away with it, with the police showing no interest in enforcing the law.
“But there are aspects already in the Hunting Act that we feel haven’t been explored by the police in seeking protections, one of which is prosecuting landowners for allowing illegal hunting on their land.”
Mr Dunbobbin has also hit back at the criticism and said he would “make no apology” for attempting to tackle wildlife crime.
He said: “The strength of feeling and polar-opposite reactions from all sides in the debate around the policing of the Hunting Act in North Wales show exactly why this review is needed.
“It also signals why any review has to be conducted in a dispassionate, impartial and reasoned way, qualities which my predecessor as Police and Crime Commissioner would do well to learn.
“An independent reviewer will offer a truly objective opinion, which might not always be the case with HMIC.
“Far from being either naive of operational issues, or being unconcerned with rural matters, my Police and Crime Plan places the tackling and preventing of rural and wildlife crime, and the people of North Wales, at its heart and I make no apology for fighting their corner.”
North Wales Police has been asked to comment.
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