Mask removal powers not used against Sussex hunt protestors
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.
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