Fox hunting: Review of how Cheshire Police upholds law ordered
A review has been ordered into the way Cheshire Police upholds hunting laws, amidst reports of foxes being illegally killed in the county.
Announcing the review, Cheshire's police commissioner David Keane said he had received a "huge increase" in correspondence about the issue.
In January, Chester MP Chris Matheson said since Christmas, "at least four foxes" were "killed by trail hunts".
Cheshire Police said it took all "rural and wildlife crime seriously".
A spokeswoman said the force understood that "strong views held by different groups mean there are frustrations with a perceived lack of police action".
She added that officers were currently investigating two incidents where it had been claimed foxes were killed by hunts - one relating to an organised hunt at Allostock, near Knutsford, on 26 December and the other to an incident in Beeston on 4 February.
Police are also investigating a number of allegations of assault, harassment and public order offences related to hunts.
Fox hunting: What is the law?
- In 2004, it was made a criminal offence in England and Wales to hunt down and kill a wild mammal with dogs
- In order to prosecute, a person must be shown to be intentionally hunting the animal
- Pursuit of live animals has been replaced by trail hunting, which sees hounds and riders follow a pre-laid scent along an agreed route
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Matheson said that "in the four weeks since Boxing Day, at least four foxes in Cheshire have been illegally killed by trail hunts".
Agriculture minister George Eustice said fox hunting was "a matter for the police and the prosecuting authorities".
"Anybody who believes the law has been broken should report it to the police," he added.
Peter Jones, secretary of the Cheshire Hunt, said fox kills were "very rare" and that the hunts "didn't go out with the intention of killing foxes".
He added that the kills had "just happened, it was just an accident".
Weaver Vale MP Mike Amesbury, who asked Mr Keane to commission the review, told the BBC foxes were being "slaughtered".
"I want to ensure that the law is being applied and these crimes are being properly investigated", he added.
Mr Keane said some of the concerns he had received related to the way police investigations were carried out.
He said the review would begin in the next weeks.