Friday, July 04, 2003

While successive New Labour Home Secretaries have continued the policy of increasing use of imprisonment begun by Michael Howard, they (or the Chancellor) have resolutely refused to fund the building of new prisons, with the exception of a few privately funded ones (of which by the way I completely disapprove. Prisons, like police and defence, should not be privatised).

Yet the population is remorselessly increasing - if the American experience is anything to go by, our prison population will probably have to double to 150,000 or so before crime is reduced to U.S. levels (did I really write that ? What have we come to when the U.S. is a low-crime paradise by comparison ?).

But the countryside is still relatively low-crime, although increasingly targeted by town-based or travelling thieves, as well as our own local smackheads (yesterday our neighbours had their trailer stolen, and a 90 year old woman in the next village found a burglar in her house). Certainly a police presence is non-existent - the village bobby went 30 years ago. The only advantage being that our local can 'lock-in' with impunity on a Friday night.

So the decision to ban hunting should pose an interesting policing problem. ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, is one of the more politically correct bodies in Britain, as Chief Constables are increasingly recruited from fast-tracked sociology graduates, rather than hard-nosed guys who've come up the hard way. But its Rural Affairs spokesman is screaming about the issues which will be created by mass civil disobedience in the countryside.

It's pretty obvious. If all hunts go out simultaneously on a Saturday and mobilise their supporters - say one, two or three hundred thousand people - there won't be enough room in all the cells of the UK for us. And the towns will be empty of police. The young lads will enjoy blocking off the lanes with bales or trailers to stop them getting through - and if they do, even a 4x4 isn't much use for catching someone on a horse in woodland.

I suppose they could always arrest the hunt followers - who round our way are lovely old boys in battered vehicles .....

As behaviour and civility has declined over the last 50 years, the countryside has remained on the whole courteous and law abiding. Goodbye to all that ?

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