Police deny mistreatment of horse at Bristol protest

Claims that an officer beat a horse during student protests in Bristol have been denied by police.

The Avon and Somerset force said it had received several complaints following media coverage of mounted officers reacting when a firework was thrown.

Footage on the BBC website filmed by a protester shows an officer apparently striking a horse with a baton.

Police said the officer had to make a "snap decision" to bring the spooked horse under control.

About 2,000 people gathered in Bristol on Wednesday to protest against plans to increase university tuition fees.

The BBC's Points West received complaints from some people after it broadcast the footage.

One wrote in an email: "No doubt the policeman involved was shaken by that incident, but that does not allow him to beat so ferociously an already plainly terrified horse."

'Padded covering'

Sgt Kerry Williams, from the force's mounted section, said the horses were startled when the firework was thrown.

She said: "A number of comments have been received from members of the public claiming that a mounted officer had 'beaten' their horse. This was not the case.

"The mounted officers follow strict training protocol in calming and controlling their horses in potentially volatile situations.

Image caption About 2,000 people protested against plans to increase university tuition fees

"One officer used a baton to gain control of his horse which had been spooked by fireworks or firecrackers, and actually struck the horse on a padded covering on their hind quarters."

She added: "We would never advocate the use of baton by an officer to strike a horse.

"However, in this set of circumstances, in a contained environment, the officer concerned had to make a snap decision to get the horse under control, for the sake of the public safety and that of the nearby foot officers.

"We appreciate the concern shown by local people, who took the trouble to contact us and express their worries."

She said that six people were arrested for a variety of public order offences.

She added. "All the horses involved in the incident were checked when they returned from the protest, and although they had had several missiles thrown towards them, including fireworks and glass, none of them had sustained any injuries."

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