Countryside Alliance campaign seeks to make sure police can complel violent or intimidating anti-hunt protestors to show their faces

The Countryside Alliance has launched an online campaign to unmask anti-hunt thugs and put an end to their intimidation of rural people. The Alliance is urging people to write to their Police & Crime Commissioners and MPs to make sure that police forces have the procedures in place allowing them to compel protestors to remove face coverings worn to conceal their identities.

In January, masked animal rights extremists attacked Tedworth huntsman Mike Lane with iron bars, leaving him unconscious and requiring hospital treatment.

Tim Bonner, the Countryside Alliance’s director of campaigns, said: “Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. There have been a number of attacks carried out by hunt saboteurs wearing combat style clothing with their faces covered by balaclavas or masks. Most of the perpetrators are never identified.

“The police do have powers to order the removal of face coverings, but they are not straightforward. An authorisation to remove an item of clothing that a constable “reasonably believes that person is wearing wholly or mainly for the purpose of concealing his identity” must be given by a senior officer in writing only when he or she believes that the individuals involved are going to commit an offence. Because the process is complicated we believe that all police forces should be prepared to deploy these powers when animal rights extremists appear in their areas.

“That is why we are asking you to contact your elected Police and Crime Commissioner to ask him or her to raise this issue with your local police force and ensure they have a protocol in place. Where police forces are prepared to use these powers we believe that the likelihood of intimidation and public disorder are reduced. We also think it is important that your MP understands your concerns as the Countryside Alliance will be discussing the legislation on face coverings and harassment with all political parties.”

The Alliance has drafted a message to be sent to Police and Crime Commissioners summing up the concerns surrounding the use of masks to hide the identity of those wishing to intimidate or assault hunt supporters operating within the law. All the user needs to do is visit the Countryside Alliance’s campaign website, fill in his or her name and address and click “send”.

To add your support to the campaign, visit http://po.st/Unmask.