Countryside Alliance leave League speechless!

We were quite literally gobsmacked to read the Countryside Alliance’s latest blogpost yesterday afternoon.

Following the publication in The Times on Boxing Day of a story claiming that footage of criminal activity gained by hunt monitors can’t be used because it breaches human rights, the Crown Prosecution Service sent a note to all Chief Constables confirming that the police can and should act upon evidence gathered by hunt monitors, and that the Countryside Alliance assertion that such footage can’t be used was quite wrong.

And so our gobsmacking came when we read that “CPS confirm that secret filming is unlawful”. How on earth have they worked that out?

The devil’s in the detail. The bluster on the CA blog says:

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has issued guidance confirming that covert surveillance by animal rights groups should be authorised under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. It has also confirmed that evidence obtained through unauthorised covert surveillance is in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The new guidance says:

“Where the police are aware of the intention of the NGO to conduct covert surveillance and intend making use of the surveillance product in the event that it reveals evidence of a crime, it would be appropriate to seek an authorisation (under RIPA).”

The key issue here are the words “are aware of the intention” in the third paragraph of the quote above.

What the Countryside Alliance have failed to publish is the following sentence, from the same document:

However, no authorisation would be required where the police neither initiate nor encourage the surveillance even though they may be aware of it – see Rosenberg [2006] EWCA Crim 6.

So, because police forces neither initiate nor encourage the surveillance, but are aware of it, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act doesn’t apply.

The spin coming from the Countryside Alliance on this issue makes you think that they want to trip up their bloodsport enthusiast members by getting them to break the law in front of monitors in the mistaken belief that the monitor’s activity is illegal.

The decent thing for the Countryside Alliance to do, in order to prevent misunderstanding, would be to admit defeat on this issue and give guidance to their members and the wider bloodsports community that monitor evidence can and will be used in prosecutions, and is in no way illegal.

But then there’s a problem with that. We said “decent”, and decency’s not something usually associated with those who kill for fun.

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6 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    oscarpeter said,

    This seems to suggest that the police are encouraging you:

    Is it true about PAW and the ex-policeman?


  2. 2

    It’s true that we are members of the Partnership Against Wildlife Crime, and that we employ a retired police officer as our Police Liaison Officer.

    To suggest that either of these things implies that the police are “encouraging” us is fanciful.

  3. 3

    gilesbradshaw said,

    So would you say that ” the police are aware of the intention of the NGO to conduct covert surveillance and intend making use of the surveillance product in the event that it reveals evidence of a crime”

    I’d say they probably are aware of your intention and that the ACPO guidance suggests that they do intend using it.

    Now the question is whether by issuing guidance that they intend using your surveillance is encouraging you to do it is a moot point,

  4. 4

    gilesbradshaw said,

    Also did I mention that I got a stag to stand at bay in a stream bed with my dogs over the weekend! It was really exciting and the first time with my collies. Lovely animal.

    The two old dogs did it a couple of times once in ireland and once over here. Unfortunately they both died last year 😦

  5. 5

    […] January 27, 2010 · Filed under Hunt Observing & Monitoring, hunting &#183 Tagged Countryside Alliance, hunting, police In a remarkable article published on Bailys hunting website, a solicitor who often represents hunts and hunters acknowledges that the League’s argument – backed up by Crown Prosecution Service guidance – that League Observers aren’t subject to complex surveillance rules which apply to police investigations, could be right. [Click here for our original blogpost on this story.] […]

  6. 6

    […] report that “CPS confirm secret filming is unlawful”. No they didn’t. We’ve said it before and frankly that lie has been put to bed once and for […]

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