The Hunting Bill is another badly drafted bit of proposed legislation.
The Telegraph article "Cameras in the trees will spy on hunts"
"Police chiefs warned the Home Secretary that enforcing the ban would cost in excess of ?30 million and divert resources from front-line policing. The plan to use cameras was put forward as a way of detecting illegal hunts without deploying hundreds of extra police to roam the countryside.
Some senior police have voiced concern that the measure could be easily foiled by riders and foot followers donning balaclavas.
Mr Blunkett, however, was said to be enthusiastic about the idea, believing that cameras would be an affordable way of allowing police to identify where illegal hunts are taking place before moving in.
An aide said: "This is the sort of imaginative policing solution that we will need to be able to police this ban, without incurring massive extra costs.""
This is the sort of ill thought out, uncosted, "technology as magic solution to a social problem" rubbish which we now , unfortunately , have come to expect from the Home Office.
David Blunkett and the Home Office seem to be obsessed with installing ever more surveillance technology, which they obviously do not actually understand, as if it offers some cheap fix to social problems. The only surprise is that they are not calling for the use of "satellite tagging" of foxes or hounds or horses or humans, perhaps that will be the next "bold initiative" ?
If these spy cameras are to be sited on private land, then the Home Secretary or a Senior Police Officer is going to have to authorise intrusive surveillance under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000. However, these powers should only be used for serious crimes. None of the offences under the Hunting Bill are classed as serious i.e. such as would merit a 3 year prison sentence for a first time offender if convicted.
The penalties under the Hunting Bill, apart from providing for seizure of dogs or vehicles or articles without compensation, is according to the Explanatory Notes of:
"A person found guilty of an offence under the Bill is liable on conviction in a magistrates' court to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale (currently ?5,000)."
So is David Blunkett planning on tweaking RIPA to lower the threshold of state surveillance, something which would affect many more people than the fox hunting community ?
Why is the Bill restricted to "hunting with dogs" ? There is no mention of using other hunting or tracking animals which have been used for centuries such as big cats like leopards, or lions.
Inexcusably for 21st century legislation, there is no mention of transgenetic animals , chimera, clones, other artificial animals or crossbreeds. None of these living entities can be called "hunting articles".
Why is there no mention of foxes, when everyone knows that this is what the Bill is mostly about ?
Why is there no mention of horses in the Bill ? There are provisions for the seizure and forfeit specifically of dogs, vehicles and "hunting articles". Horses, which are the most important (and expensive) part of fox hunting are not mentioned at all.
Why is it so necessary to grant "a constable" search powers of "premises" or "land" without the need for a search warrant to enforce this Bill ? Why can't a search warrant be obtained in the same way as would have to be done to look for say, drugs or stolen property - which are much more serious offences ?
The worst failing of the wording of the Bill is that it simply does not define the activity of "hunting" at all.
Does "hunting" mean the actual detection by scent or sound or sight of a fox, and the chase and then killing of the fox ? Many hunts stomp over the countryside without actually sighting a fox. If there is no actual fox, is it still a hunt ?
The wording of the Bill provides no clarity on exactly where to draw the line between a hunt and a point ot point horse race etc., an omission for which there is simply no excuse, given how controversial this Bill is.