Disabled hunter criticises police for not prosecuting saboteurs
A disabled hunter has slammed the police for their lack of interaction in the controversial pastime saying someone could possibly be killed if the force fails to prosecute saboteurs.
Lucilla Paull, 50, believes her only escape from being a wheelchair user is participating in a hunt which gives her the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the countryside.
When Mrs Paull became the hunted after being a victim of animal rights activists she criticised police for not taking appropriate action. “When the police let things go, the situation gets worse and worse. It feels like a war now,” told The Telegraph.
“Of course, there are bad actors on both sides, but it feels like a war that most of us are just trying to walk away from. When we are out trail hunting, we just want to go about our peaceful business, and we can’t. “
Paull, who has symphysis pubis dysfunction, is unable to walk due to a failed spinal surgery and reliant on large doses of morphine, without the drug she would be in immense pain which would feel like she was being ripped apart from hounds.
She has ignored professional advice from doctors advising her not to ride horses taking pain relief which allows her to enjoy the ‘sport’.
Following an interview with My Countryside magazine in December she was confronted by a saboteur on a Cottesmore Hunt in Leicestershire.
“The sabs were there in huge numbers, there were about 100 of them,” Paull recalled.
“I am easily recognisable, because I have a leg brace on, and that makes me very vulnerable.
“We were riding in single file when he jumped out from behind a tree and in front of my cantering horse. How I did not hit him I will never know. I can go forwards and backwards but because I do not have the use of my leg, I cannot make a sideways movement.
“He poked me in the eye and started shouting abuse at me, saying ‘call yourself fucking disabled’. Initially I said sorry, even though he had thrown himself in front of me, because that is the kind of person I am.”
Paull reported the incident as a hate crime believing she was victimised because of her disability.
“I described it to the police as a bit like Emily Davison and the King’s horse,” she said. “I told them that I was scared to be out, that I could have killed that man and that I didn’t think they would believe my story if I had.
“It wasn’t being filmed, because we were not expecting it, and unfortunately Leicestershire police don’t believe anybody who hunts, so they didn’t even bother investigating.
“I have told the police again and again that it has now got to the stage where somebody is going to get seriously hurt or killed, particularly in Leicestershire.”
Paull alleges the police made no attempt to contact the saboteur leading to a second Cottesmore hunt being blocked by masked animal rights protestors in February shouting abuse.
She went on to slam the police for not forcing the sabs to take off their masks so they could be identified or prosecuted.
On a recent occasion Paull attempted to speak to the officer, but was unable to reach him because she was on crutches.
“I knew the policeman was parked right behind me and hadn’t helped to protect me all day so saw little point in telephoning 999, as Leicestershire police had already refused to engage or help me so many times that day,” she said. “I just had to sit in my locked car and hope they would go away, leave me alone unharmed. It was terrifying yet again.”
Paull has escalated her complaint against Leicestershire police to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) who, despite not reinvestigating her accusation, will determine if the incident was handled properly.
She told the PCC because the allegation “was not taken seriously or investigated properly” it has “led to a pattern of behaviour where those opposed to trail hunting have on subsequent occasions tried to throw themselves in front of horses in an attempt to incriminate the rider”.
A Leicestershire Police spokesman said that the complaint “was investigated by our Professional Standards Department and the complainant was informed that the service provided by the force was acceptable.
“The complainant was advised that they have the right to request a review of this outcome by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) which they have chosen to do.
“Therefore, as the review remains ongoing with the PCC’s office, it would be inappropriate for the force to make any further comment at this time.”
On Friday the Countryside Alliance’s head of hunting Polly Portwin advised the police “to take the very real threat that hunt saboteurs pose seriously and to take robust action against all those who are responsible for such anti-social behaviour to prevent this situation escalating”.
“Committing a hate crime towards an individual under any circumstances is disgraceful but purposefully targeting somebody with a disability whilst they are taking part in a lawful activity which benefits their physical and mental well-being is particularly vile,” Paull said.
“Things are escalating, it is getting worse, and someone is going to get seriously hurt. When I worked in London if a gang of masked people turned up you would have riot police pointing guns at them. Why is this allowed in the countryside? I don’t know what it is going to take to change things, for a person to get seriously hurt?
“I wouldn’t be speaking up if it wasn’t as bad as it was. I will become an even greater target, but somebody has to say something, and people are too scared, because they will become a target like me.”
“I should be able to go wherever I want to go, to do whatever I want to do – I am not breaking the law. I am not well, I am vulnerable, I am on a lot of morphine, who knows what the future holds, but whatever it holds the future is not great for me, but I should be able to do this, I should be able to have the freedom joining the hunt gives me.”
[ Although fox hunting is officially banned in the UK, loopholes in the law allow hunts to regularly kill foxes. ]