A while ago we revealed links between Leicestershire Police Wildlife Officer PC Rob Cross and local fox hunts. Official complaints were made to Leicestershire Police regarding the conduct of PC Cross. Leicestershire Police refused to even investigate the majority of what was contained in the complaint stating that the length of time was outside of 12 months. This included an allegation that PC Cross had divulged unauthorised information to a supporter of the Atherstone Hunt and an allegation that PC Cross had not investigated an incident of illegal hunting properly.
Regarding his links to fox hunting Leicestershire Police found that there was no conflict of interest. We are not satisfied with this outcome based on the fact that PC Cross is not only a wildlife officer but also part of Leicestershire Police’s Operation Blackthorn (the East Midlands policing operation for hunting). Given his links to that community should he have any involvement in hunting related issues at all?
Regarding PC Cross retweeting an article in support of repealing the Hunting Act Leicestershire Police merely comment that “A “retweet” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are in support of an issue, but would lend weight to the thought process that they may be” and that the retweet took place long before PC Cross became a wildlife officer. We think it irrelevant when or how long ago the tweet was sent the fact that he has given an opinion on hunting in the public domain means he should never have been part of Leicestershire Police’s hunting operation or become a wildlife officer.
In regards to PC Cross’s links to people involved in local hunts he claims “that he knows all of the individuals but he is not friends with any of the rest of the named persons”. This is despite admitting to going to a wedding which some members of the Atherstone Hunt also attended. The exception to this are two people PC Cross claims to be close friends with and who he helps out with on their farm. He claims they don’t ride with any hunt or are a member of any hunt “but that they have allowed the Fernie Hunt to occasionally pass through their farm grounds”. What he means by “occasionally” we can’t be sure but this would be true of most farmers who let hunts on their land. Fox hunts don’t go over the same land week in week out, instead access is normally spread out across the course of a hunting season. For example a farmer who lets a hunt on their land once for cub hunting, once before Christmas and once after Christmas could easily claim to “occasionally” let the hunt on their land. Certainly they wouldn’t do so if they didn’t support the hunt. Leicestershire Police do not see this as a conflict of interest. However what if an incident involving the hunt took place on that land? This reinforces our point that he should never have had any part in Leicestershire Police’s fox hunting operation.
The other notable link between PC Cross and a local hunt is the member of the Atherstone Hunt (filmed assaulting a sab and who Leicestershire Police claimed they couldn’t locate) who was an equestrian groom for a period of time at a horse yard run by PC Cross’s mother-in-law. PC Cross states that they are not friends but that his mother-in-law and his wife are. Leicestershire Police are happy that there is no conflict of interest…
We maintain the opinion that PC Cross should never of had any involvement in the policing of hunting. Fox hunting is a very emotive subject and involves two groups with opposing views. So it is inevitable that when a member of the police dealing with hunting is seen to have personal links to hunting the fairness and integrity of that policing operation will be brought into question. Leicestershire Police are happy that there is no conflict of interest, so how can anyone wishing to report a hunting incident have any trust in Leicestershire Police that it will be dealt with appropriately? Especially if it is related to either the Atherstone Hunt or the Fernie Hunt? We will be taking this matter up with the IOPC.