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(Updated 20/5/01)

Human rights act may make hunting ban illegal



BACKBENCH MPs wishing to see the abolition of hunting under a new anti-hunting Bill in the next Parliament may be disappointed - thanks to the Human Rights Act.

The Government has been warned by the all-party committee of MPs and peers that abolishing the sport could contravene one of the main tenets of the Human Rights Act, that of ‘the right to respect for private life.’
People banned from hunting on their own land, or those who would lose income because of a ban, could mount a successful legal challenge.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, in considering the options in the Hunting Bill going through Parliament, expressed its concerns in a letter to Home Secretary Jack Straw on February 14th - although this fact was not revealed until last week.

In the letter, Jean Corston, the Labour chairman, warned there was a ‘significant risk’ of a successful legal challenge if the Government went ahead with proposals for a regulatory body for the sport, one of the options included in the anti-hunting Bill then being drafted.

If passed, people who defied the ban faced fines of up to £5,000, and police could search suspected hunters and confiscate or destroy their dogs. The Countryside Alliance vowed to fight the Government in the courts, using the European Convention on Human Rights - ironically a piece of legislation adopted by the Labour Government.

Al Alliance spokesman said the proposed Bill breached up to five articles in the convention, including the right to ‘peaceful enjoyment of property’ and ‘peaceful assembly and association’.

If a new anti-hunting Bill is introduced in the next Parliament -assuming Labour wins, as expected - the Countryside Alliance has promised to go ahead with plans to mount legal challenges under the Human Rights Act again.