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Squire to ban hunt from land

IT SOUNDS like a case of divided loyalties. His family may have founded the Albrighton Hunt, but John Giffard, the Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police, knows where his loyalties will lie when a hunting ban is introduced.

The police chief has never followed a hunt. He has not ridden a horse for 40 years and as far as he is concerned the pursuit will be banned in February 2005 when the Hunting Act takes effect.
But as the 29th squire of Chillington Hall, near Codsall Wood in Staffordshire, Mr Giffard is surrounded in hunting history, with his great-great grandfather - Walter Giffard - establishing the Albrighton Hunt in 1830.

The 4,000-acre estate, whose gardens were landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century, continues to be a picturesque backdrop for the Albrighton.

But while there is deep resentment among many in the local community about the ban, Mr Giffard's beliefs are clear - anyone hunting on his land once the ban is introduced will be trespassing.

The chief constable, who enjoys some countryside sports such as shooting, said: "At the moment, hunting is a lawful pursuit and my father would be very distressed if the hunt were not allowed onto my land. But as soon as the ban is in place, that's the end of it. If they come here they will be trespassing. As to whether they are breaking the law, that will be for me and my officers to decide."

Mr Giffard spends his weekends running the estate, which was given to his family as a reward for helping William the Conqueror win the battle of Hastings in 1066.

His father, Peter Richard de Longueville Giffard, was the hunt's vice chairman and used to hold grand hunt balls at the family home.

"I accept the family tradition and everybody knows that. But everybody knows that, as Chief Constable, I will enforce the law," said Mr Giffard.

"The Hunting Act will be enforced by my officers in accordance with whatever guidelines the Association of Chief Police Officers produces.

"There will be no different instructions locally and my position should not be considered to have any part in this at all."

A spokesman for Staffordshire Police said there was no conflict between Mr Giffard's position as chief constable and his family connections with the Albrighton Hunt.

Mr Giffard will have no direct responsibility for policing hunts in Staffordshire when a ban comes into force, with that responsibility falling onto his assistant chief constables, the spokesman added.

Margaret Busby, secretary of the Albrighton Hunt, said: "Obviously the official line is that hunting will be illegal from February 19th. and as his position as Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police there will be no fox hunting and therefore no need to go on his land.

As reported previously, many hunt supporters have vowed to defy a ban when it comes into force on February 19th., as well as embarking on a campaign of civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, the Association of Chief Police Officers is considering the implications of the ban on hunting with hounds.