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Cheryl Knight Wiltshire Police

VICTORY! Wiltshire Police’s Rural Crime Team will no longer employ fox hunters

Hunt saboteurs have claimed a victory after Wiltshire Police announced that it has conducted a review into its Rural Crime Team (RCT).

The review comes after public outrage at the appointment of police officer Cheryl Knight into the RCT. Knight has several connections to fox hunting, including field riding with the Beaufort Hunt, as well as attending one of the Avon Vale’s infamous Boxing Day meets.

Wiltshire Police stated that the review “has resulted in us establishing a framework to ensure the suitability of our personnel working within the unit.” It continued:

“The new framework will provide more scrutiny around the suitability of our officers, staff and volunteers to work within the unit. It sets out key principles to ensure staff do not have personal links to hunts past or present, do not have links to any anti-hunt groups past or present and requires staff disclose links to any rural based hobby or initiative that could potentially call into question their policing impartiality.”

The police didn’t explicitly state that Knight has been removed from her role in the RCT, although hinted at such:

“This has already resulted in some staffing changes although it would not be appropriate for us to comment on individual cases.”

In response, Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs celebrated, and said:

“Without saying it directly, Wiltshire Police are pretty much saying that the foxhunting police criminal who was recently assigned to the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team has now been removed from her rural crime post, if not the police force.”

The power of the public

Back in February, Wiltshire Police initially released a statement in defence of their appointment of Knight. At the time, the force told Protect The Wild:

“It is not illegal for someone working for a Police Force to be affiliated with a hunt organisation. We wouldn’t comment on alleged affiliations or membership of individual officers to any hunt.”

Because of Wiltshire Police’s lack of concern about obvious bias in its RCT, hunt saboteurs, wildlife monitors, campaigners and locals all joined forces in protest. A petition was signed, and letters were sent into Wiltshire Police, criticising the appointment of Knight. Then on 5 March, a hundreds-strong crowd gathered outside Wiltshire Police’s headquarters to protest the force’s bias.

This collective effort has, evidently, forced the police to do a U-turn and review how it employs members of the RCT.

Protect The Wild spoke to Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs, whose role was instrumental in scoring this victory. The sabs said:

“The removal of Foxhunting police officers from the RCT was always at the core of our campaign. This issue goes to the heart of police impartiality, accountability and public trust and confidence in the “policing by consent” model, particularly during a time when the public gaze is very much focused on the corruption and the sometimes criminal behaviour which occurs within every police force around the country.

Naturally this result is welcomed. This is most certainly a win for the power of people to hold powerful institutions and interests to account, when the official systems invariably fail to do so.”

Wiltshire Sabs continued:

“This announcement coincidentally falls on a day when once again, two more local hunts hit the news: The Cotswold Hunt who were recently caught, with a live vixen, stuffed into a sack and buried into an artificial earth, to be released to the hounds, and the Royal Agricultural College Beagles, who were caught on camera hunting a hare near Sherston.

We know that the RCT are currently investigating several incidents of hunt crime, some of which hunt sabs have been assisting with, and we will continue to provide evidence, where we can, to bring these organised rural crime gangs to justice for the sake of our persecuted wildlife.”

Wiltshire Police’s review of the RCT is an obvious example of how saboteurs, campaigners and members of the public can work well together and get results.

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