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-(1) If any person responsible for any dog or dogs, causes that dog or those dogs to enter land in contravention of the written instructions of the landowner or occupier, and the action of that dog or dogs causes damage to any form of property, disrupts any lawful activity, or interferes with the lawful enjoyment by the landowner or occupier of the property, he shall be guilty of an offence. (2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.'.-- [Mr. Morley.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
(1) . If any person enters land equipped for the purpose of digging for a wild animal sheltering in a subterranean refuge, he shall be guilty of a criminal offence unless he can show that, at the material time, he had the permission of the landowner or occupier to dig for that wild animal.
(2) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale, or both.'.
New clause 23-- Dogs (protection of livestock)
. In the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, in section (2A)(b) the word "or" is inserted after the words "a trained sheep dog", and the words "or a pack of hounds" are omitted.'.
New clause 24-- Dangerous dogs
. In the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, section 3, in subsection (3) there shall be inserted the following new paragraph
(c) it injures any domestic animal either owned by, or authorised to be in that place by, the landowner or occupier.".'.
Government amendments Nos. 186 and 187.
Mr. Morley : I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to the new clauses, as I believe that some misleading information has been circulated among hon. Members concerning the way in which clause 58 will apply.
The Minister said that the intention is that clause 58 will apply equally to fox hunts which trespass on other people's land even when notice has been given to them that they are not welcome, and to those who trespass in terms of disrupting fox hunts, which is the intention of the new clause.
I am also grateful for the cross-party support which the clauses have attracted. It is clear that there is widespread concern about the way in which the new offence will be implemented. I am only sorry that the Government have applied a three-line Whip, because a free vote on the issue would demonstrate that there is a great deal of concern on all sides of the House about an attempt to criminalise an activity which is designed to assist one particular group in society, without making sure that such restrictions apply fairly.
Many people are surprised that the Government have given such a high priority to legislation of this kind simply at the behest of blood sports groups without any attempt at proper consultation with the wider community. Indeed, that contrasts sharply with issues such as offences involving racial attacks, on which the Government are reluctant to introduce legislation on the grounds that existing procedures deal with the matter. Under present law, there are procedures for dealing with the disruption caused by blood sports. I must also make it clear at this point that the Labour party opposes and unreservedly condemns violence, criminal damage and intimidation, whatever its source. It is totally untrue to suggest that such violence and intimidation come purely from one source.
Mr. Oliver Heald (Hertfordshire, North) : The hon. Gentleman will see that clause 58(1) requires that the offender intends to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt. Is not the problem with his new clause the fact that the offence is absolute and that proof of intention is not required, so that
Column 106someone who committed the offence inadvertently, negligently, or without intending to do so would be liable not merely to a fine but to a sentence of imprisonment ?
The definition of intention is a key aspect. Because of the use of the word "intended" in the Bill it will be almost impossible to take any action against fox hunts that trespass on people's land, even when they have been given notice not to do so--I am not sure whether that was the intention. It is totally untrue that only hunt saboteurs are responsible for violence and intimidation. The evidence that I have collected suggests that it is the yobbish element associated with hunts who are responsible for violence, intimidation and convictions, rather than the other way round.
I only wish that I could be more precise, but unfortunately, although I tabled written questions to the Home Secretary asking him to provide details of convictions of people who had been involved in violent attacks on hunt supporters, he was unable to give me any figures. If he cannot provide such figures it begs the question, what is the scale of the problem ? The Home Secretary does not know, but has seen fit to introduce legislation to deal with the problem. I also understand that the police did not ask for the powers in the Bill and were not consulted about the clauses, how they would work in practice and their implications for police manpower and resources. My local force told me their grave reservations about the new clause and about the problems that they would have enforcing it.
A case can already be made to show that the new clause will give one group of people special protection--a group of people who pursue activities that the majority of people, including the majority of the rural community, totally oppose. If we are to provide powers of that sort--I am not convinced that they are necessary--they should also apply to trespasses by hunts, especially when the master has been given clear notice that the hunt is not welcome. Clause 58 does not do so.
Sir Nicholas Bonsor (Upminster) : I hesitate to interrupt the hon. Gentleman because his facts are so wildly inaccurate that they speak for themselves. However, he must know that the Government's new clause applies as much to hunts as to anyone else. If a hunt were intentionally trying to disrupt someone else's lawful pursuit it would be just as liable as anyone else under the Bill. The fact is that hunts would not have that intention and that is why the clause will not apply to them.
Mr. Morley : With respect, the hon. Gentleman is talking complete nonsense. I have a letter here from Lord Ferrers at the Home Office. In direct response to my question about whether the clause would deal with hunts that trespass deliberately on people's land, he states : "simple trespass, by hunters or anyone else, would not be caught." That makes it clear that hunts would not be affected by clause 58, even when they persistently trespass on other people's land--farmland, gardens, parks and nature reserves--although they have been told not to do so. If we have to have such powers
Mr. James Paice (Cambridgeshire, South-East) : Does not the hon. Gentleman understand that no one else would be prosecuted if they simply trespassed with no ulterior motive ? As my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire,
Column 107North (Mr. Heald) explained, intent to disrupt must be proved, as clause 58 demonstrates, and that applies across the board. The act of simple trespass, to which he referred, remains a civil and not a criminal offence for anyone.
Mr. Morley : The hon. Gentleman is completely missing the point. As the Bill stands, even when a hunt persistently and deliberately trespasses- -I can cite cases in which hunts have been given notice in writing that they are not to go on people's land but persistently do so--it will simply have to say that it was an accident, that it did not mean to trespass or to be disruptive, and there is no way that the landowner can take any action in the courts other than civil action. Why should landowners face the expense and trouble of civil action when hunts receive special protection from the law ?
Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South) : The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. A case reported extensively in the Darlington and Stockton Times concerned just such a landowner. He attempted to prevent a hunt from crossing his property because he has a wildlife sanctuary. He wrote to the master of the hunt on five occasions, but has been ignored. The hunt has continued to go over his land. That is why I tabled amendment No. 60, which I am sorry has not been selected, which states :
"A person commits an offence of aggravated trespass if he trespasses on land in the open air with any horse or dog for the purpose of hunting, trapping or taking game."
The hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that clause 58 will be applied unfairly to hunt saboteurs and not to hunters.
Mr. Morley : I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and I agree. I recognise that his amendment is similar to my new clause and his argument is clearly demonstrated in a brief circulated by the British Field Sports Society to Liberal Democrat Members of Parliament. Not surprisingly, the society complains about the new clauses, but states that at present the Bill will only make it
"a criminal offence to trespass with the intention of disrupting a lawful activity."
The word "intention" is underlined. As a result, hunts will get off the hook, even when they deliberately cause problems and consistently cause damage. I mentioned the letter that I received from the Home Office Minister, which also makes that absolutely clear.
Having established, beyond doubt, that the law will be selective, one might question how new clause 21 attempts to apply it fairly. First, the new clause will not make inadvertent trespass a criminal offence, as suggested in the BFS brief. It applies to a person responsible for dogs who is informed in writing that the dogs are not allowed on an owner's land. It would not apply, for example, to an individual dog owner whose dog simply strayed on to a person's land when he was taking it for a walk, because the owner must be given notice in writing before such an offence takes place. Certain individual irresponsible dog owners may cause problems because their dogs persistently go on to people's land, and there may be an opportunity here as well for dealing with that kind of problem. I can think of a few examples myself where irresponsible dog owners have caused particular problems.
There is a real problem of disruption caused by hunts. Hon. Members will have received the excellent document, entitled "Riot" and compiled by the League against Cruel Sports, which gives 270 recent examples of hunts
Column 108trespassing on people's land, causing problems, damage and even intimidation. The 270 examples are only those which have appeared in newspapers or about which legal advice has been sought from the League. I am quite sure that many others go unreported.
I have two examples here of people who have written to me in response to a campaign by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Both people live in the country. The first, a sheep farmer in Dyfed, writes :
"Three dogs broke away from the pack and went into a different valley from the rest."
This was after giving notice to the local hunt that it was not to trespass on his land. He went on to say that, unattended, they entered his
"land (32 acres) which was being grazed by 39 pregnant ewes and one ram. Despite the intervention of my wife, myself and one of our border collies, the foxhounds chased all the sheep off our land, right through the next farm, and into the land of the farm beyond that. There, some half a mile distant, they merged them in with another flock of the same breed. It took 3 days to sort and recover the correct sheep . . . Despite the ewes having been climbing over each other to cross barbed wire fences".
Why should a sheep farmer have to go to all that trouble after giving notice to the hunt that it was not to go through his land ? He wrote to tell me that the hunt came to him beforehand to say that it would be coming through on Tuesday, not seeking permission to come through. It was then that he told them verbally, and in writing, that the members of the hunt would not be allowed to go through his land.
Mr. Michael Colvin (Romsey and Waterside) : The hon. Gentleman has quoted an isolated case and an extreme one. Will he also acknowledge that half a million lambs are killed each year by foxes ? I do not think that he would find many sheep farmers opposed to the idea of the hunt being near or round their farms.
Mr. Morley : I do not want to be drawn into the ethics of fox- hunting when we are discussing these new clauses, as they go beyond what we are talking about. What evidence there is suggests that fox predation accounts for 0.5 per cent. of sheep, most of which are lambs that have died from hypothermia. That figure compares with 17 per cent. of sheep that die of hypothermia normally. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food itself does not regard fox predation as significant. The hon. Gentleman is also wrong to suggest that this is an isolated case. I have already referred to 270 cases outlined in the document from the League against Cruel Sports. I have another letter, this time from a family in Barnstaple, Devon.
Mr. William Ross (Londonderry, East) : The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I do not hunt foxes on horseback although I have shot the creatures on a number of occasions. I must confess to him that from my own experience as a sheep farmer of a considerable number of years' standing the predation of foxes is rather higher than is indicated by the figures that he has just given. They are opportunist feeders and tend to pick up the twin lamb that is lying behind the hedge asleep when the mother and the other lamb are further off in the field, grazing. That is my personal experience.
In the incident to which the hon. Gentleman referred he said that the farmer had told the hunt not to come through
Column 109his land, but he also said that it was three hounds that broke away from the main pack which came through the land, not the hunt.
Mr. Morley : My impression from the letter was that the three hounds that broke away from the pack were from the main hunt which was on his land and which drove the sheep to a particular valley. That is all that I want to say about fox predation, apart from the fact that it is not significant.
Returning to my other example, the letter says :
"During the afternoon we heard the hounds getting very close to our property and having several cats and a dog in the garden called them in. Ten minutes later the hunt charged through the garden in pursuit of a stag that had sought refuge there. As they went through the Huntmaster shouted, Stand back. We are the hunt.' The arrogance was truly amazing. The stag, poor thing, suffered as follows. The hounds chased it through the garden to a steep rise at the top, where it stood for twenty minutes, can you believe, being bitten, dragged and jumped on. One can hardly imagine the terror and pain it suffered before being shot. The stag was then dragged back through our garden, the children blooded and we were offered the liver. To myself, family and friends it was like some satanic ritual."
Those are two examples--I need hardly quote more--of the kind of problem that hunts cause. We need to make sure that this law, if we are to have it, applies fairly to all concerned. It does not do so at present. New clause 21 will deal with that, and new clauses 23 and 24 will also deal with the problem of hunts and stock.
I should have thought that clause 22 was far less controversial than the others. It relates to the problem of badger-baiting. At present, people involved in the sickening sport of badger-baiting, who are often stopped and challenged on people's land, will simply say, unless they are caught in the act of digging the badger set, that they are looking for a fox's earth or intend to dig out a fox, which is not illegal. New clause 22 will help the police and the landowner. If people are caught on a landowner's land, equipped to dig subterranean animals, with shovels and sacks and the associated paraphernalia, they will be guilty of an offence if they cannot show that they have the permission of the landowner to be on that land. That will go some way towards strengthening the powers to prevent badger- baiting, which is a real problem in this country.
In conclusion, I believe that we need to tackle this serious problem. I am only sorry that we have not had the opportunity of discussing and voting on whether blood sports should be allowed to continue. I believe that that vote will come sooner rather than later, at which time these clauses may be academic. At present it is unjustified to give special protection to any one group in society without applying that law fairly. That is why I believe that the House should support the new clauses.
Mr. Maclean : We should be aware that clause 58 has nothing to do with hunting ; it is all about public order. I shall quote the words of the statute because it seems that the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) has not followed them. The measures that we have taken to deal with disruptive trespassers apply only where anyone who
"trespasses on land in the open air and, in relation to any lawful activity which persons are engaging in or are about to engage in . . . does there anything which is intended by him to have the effect of intimidating those persons . . . so as to deter them . . . from engaging in that activity,"
or the effect of
Column 110"obstructing that activity, or . . . disrupting that activity." Yet, to listen to the hon. Gentleman, one would think that the whole debate was about hunting.
The statute would apply to disruption at the grand national, for example. Many examples have been cited, in Committee and by Opposition Members. The clause would apply to all sides. If a hunt or shooters or any other people in the countryside trespass on someone else's land with the intention of disrupting an activity, and deliberately disrupt that activity or threaten the people engaged in it--whether that activity be lambing, doing one's garden or holding a fete for the League Against Cruel Sports--this law will apply to them, and rightly so ; they will deserve everything that they get.
Mr. Morley : Let me make two brief points. First, the Home Secretary himself emphasised in his speech to the Conservative party conference that the clause was aimed at hunt saboteurs, as the Minister well knows. Secondly, how does one prove that the trespass was intentional when a hunt goes on to people's land ? That is the crux of the problem.
Mr. Maclean : No doubt if my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary had been speaking at Aintree on Saturday, he would have emphasised the benefit of the clause there, and if he had been speaking to all the angling associations he would have emphasised the relevance of the clause there. This clause is relevant to all perfectly legal activities that can be liable to disruption. It is not right that they be disrupted.
Mr. Maclean : No, because I want to answer the second argument advanced by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe, about intention. It is up to the police and the prosecutor to prove intention in a variety of cases. We cannot have a law making simple trespass--circumstances in which someone, inadvertently or not, steps on to someone else's land--a criminal offence. Of course we must have intention. It would be necessary to prove intention on the part of saboteurs who go on to someone's land. If they go on to someone else's land and do not intimidate, threaten or obstruct the activity, they are not committing a criminal offence ; the landowner will have to resort to the civil law, and rightly so. How could intention be proved ? The difficulty of proving intention is common throughout the criminal law.
Mr. Michael rose
Mr. Michael : But will the Minister acknowledge that the clauses on disruptive trespass contain a power for a constable in uniform who reasonably suspects that a person is committing an offence to arrest him without a warrant ? Does the Minister accept that the extensive proof is not as strong as he is suggesting in his own clauses ?
Mr. Maclean : No, not at all. Of course, under the laws of our land, if a policeman reasonably suspects someone of wrongdoing, he may make an arrest. There is no automatic right of arrest ; we are not giving any draconian power to landlords or old-fashioned lairds to summon the police
Column 111automatically and order them to do their duty--or what those landlords believe to be their duty--to haul anyone and everyone off their land.
Some of the rumours flying around Scotland at the moment are quite appalling. There is a rumour that this power will be used to stop people hill walking in the Scottish mountains. It is quite an extraordinary concept that the powers that we have introduced to deal with people who are intimidating, threatening or obstructing would ever be used by any sensible policeman against hill walkers in the Scottish mountains. It is just not on.
The other point is that only a policeman may make an arrest. If a policeman does not come to the reasonable assumption
Mr. Maclean : I want to make this very important point. There are many misconceptions about what the power involves. If a policeman does not conclude that someone is a trespasser on someone else's land and engaged in intimidating people who are involved in a lawful activity or in threatening, deterring, obstructing or disrupting them, he does not have the power to arrest that person and cannot do so.
Mr. Etherington : I note that the Minister is stressing the term "lawful activity". What would be the position if a hunt were trespassing against the explicit wishes of a landowner and if hunt saboteurs, who perhaps had the sympathy of the landowner, were trying to do something about it ? What would happen in that case, because that is the sort of situation that the clause would help to bring about ?
Mr. Maclean : A decision would have to be made by policemen on the ground as to whether the conditions of the clause were satisfied. I cannot give an exact answer in every hypothetical case. What would be the position if saboteurs had gone on to someone's land and were not engaged in intimidating, obstructing or disrupting anyone ? Many people do not want others to come on to their land. Many people with footpaths would much prefer members of the public and their dogs to keep off the footpaths. But that is tough luck ; people have a right to use footpaths. Sometimes their dogs stray from the path-- [Interruption.] That would be getting into a different argument. The idea that we should make simple trespass in those circumstances a criminal offence is quite extraordinary.
New clause 21 would create a new offence if a dog entered land without the landowner's consent and it subsequently caused damage or nuisance. That would pose a risk for every dog owner who allowed his or her dog to stray on to private land, or even from the footpath, if that dog caused damage or distress as described in the new clause.
Column 112has given to dealing with the problems raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Etherington).
Under the Minister's proposals, even if it could be proved that a hunt was reckless in trespassing and had ignored repeated attempts by the landowner to protect his property, it would not be committing an offence. Why has the Minister not brought forward something in the Bill to deal with the issues raised by my hon. Friends rather than simply picking holes in what we proposed in Committee, so giving him plenty of time to consider how to deal with the matter ?
Mr. Maclean : The civil law is there to deal with that sort of trespass where there are no threats, no obstruction and no damage. Exactly the same law would apply to hunt saboteurs. The landowner could write to them and say, "Keep off my land. I don't want you to come." If they constantly ignored the landowner and came on to his land, they could not be arrested under this clause unless they intended to intimidate him, obstruct him or disrupt any lawful activity. If they did that, they would be caught. If a hunt or anyone else goes on to private land--whether or not any notification has been received about it--with the intention to disrupt any activities of other people, they will be caught as well, and rightly so.
Mr. Michael : This is an important matter because the Minister is making a point that needs to be understood. As a result of decisions in the House of Lords, what is said in this House is important in the interpretation of the law. Is the Minister asserting that in the circumstances to which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North has referred--where there has been an invasion of land by the hunt on a number of occasions--that evidence would be addressed by the measure that is in the Bill already ? Is he saying that, just as hunt saboteurs can be dealt with under criminal law subject to the evidence that he has discussed, a hunt that trespassed in that way could be dealt with in that way ?
Mr. Maclean : I am saying that repeated trespass by anyone is not a criminal offence and will not be a criminal offence under this provision as civil law can be used to stop it. I am also saying that, if anyone--whoever he or she may be--trespasses on someone else's land and commits the offence in the new clause, intending to intimidate, obstruct or disrupt any lawful activity, he or she will be committing an offence and a policeman may take action against that person. 9.15 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) : I agree with the Minister's criticisms of the new clause but I am anxious about the stories that I have been hearing all day to the effect that the provision may not apply to Scotland. Hunts in my constituency operate on both sides of the border and I am a little concerned that people may be able to disrupt or intimidate the hunt when it gets that far down the road, whereas they cannot do so at this end of the road. Will the Minister advise me on that matter ?
Mr. Maclean : I advise the right hon. Gentleman to take the matter up with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. I am afraid that I cannot be more helpful than that. It must be for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to decide what laws he wishes to apply in Scotland.
Column 113I wish to conclude my remarks on new clause 21 before coming to some important Government amendments. If a real mischief is being caused because dogs are being allowed deliberately to enter private land and encouraged thereafter to behave in the disruptive ways described in the new clause, the person responsible may be committing the aggravated trespass offence already provided for in clause 58.
Mr. Maclean : No, it does not have to. The hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe suggested that people may put their dogs on to land and encourage them to cause disruption. Whether they encourage them or not, if they intend to disrupt a lawful activity and threaten others in their lawful activity, they will be caught by the new clause. We use the words "intend" and "intimidate" rather than "encourage", but the practical effect is the same. If people encourage them, they must have some intention to do so.
"any person responsible for any dog or dogs . . . causes that dog or those dogs to enter land".
It does not state whether the cause is intentional or unintentional. The dictionary defines "cause" as a thing that makes something happen. For the clause to have an effect in law, it must stipulate whether an action is intentional or inadvertent. The new clause as drafted does not do so, so it must be defective.
Mr. Maclean : My hon. Friend makes a good point but I am not relying on that. It is wrong in principle to go down the route suggested by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe. New clause 22 proposes to make it a criminal offence to enter land equipped for the purpose of digging for a wild animal. That proposal is unworkable because until a person actually engaged in digging for a wild animal, there would be no positive means of determining his purpose in entering the land as a trespasser. It would not be acceptable to make it an offence for a person simply to walk on to someone else's property carrying a spade, for example, but that is what the provision would mean. If damage is caused to the land by digging activity, that could constitute an offence ; indeed, it is already an offence under the Criminal Damage Act 1971.
Mr. Maclean : It may not be normal activity for many people to stroll around the countryside carrying a spade, although I can think of some who have done it. [Interruption.] Hon. Members acknowledge that they have done it. It is already an offence to dig out wild animals. It is nonsense to suggest that the police should anticipate that someone may be about to do that.
Column 114New clause 23 seeks to make it an offence for a pack of hounds to be in a field in which there are sheep. Currently, a pack of hounds is one of several exemptions to the general provisions in the Dogs (Protection of Livestock) Act 1953, which makes it an offence for an owner to allow his dog to be at large in a field or enclosure in which there are sheep. I am not aware that packs of hounds, as opposed to any other type of dogs also exempted by the law, pose such a particular threat to sheep that would justify an amendment to the 1953 Act.
New clause 24 seeks to create a new offence in circumstances in which an owner allows his dog to enter private property and injure an animal. The Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 already creates wide-ranging and effective powers in respect of dogs which are dangerously out of control or injure any person. At the same time, under the Dogs Act 1871, magistrates courts have the power to make a control order over a dog that is considered dangerous-- a dog that attacks people or animals. Such an order may specify how the control should be exercised--for instance, by requiring a dog to be muzzled or kept on a lead or excluded from specific places such as school playgrounds. I do not consider it necessary to introduce additional controls of the sort envisaged in the new clause.
Some of the proposals seek to criminalise simple trespass per se. Unless there are significant aggravated factors, such as disruption of a lawful activity or threatening behaviour or intimidation, trespass should not be caught by the criminal law but should remain a matter for the civil law. As I have stressed, the powers are not solely about hunting : they are about the disruption of any lawful activity in which people may be engaged. They are entirely even-handed in their effect.
I want to speak to Government amendments Nos. 186 and 187. I said in Committee that I would give careful consideration to the proposals to tackle the nuisance caused by groups who trespass on private land to indulge in the criminal activity of illegal hare coursing, terrorising local people in the process. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, North (Mr. Heald) on his persistence in Committee in coming up with amendment after amendment to try to focus more carefully on the mischief involved. My hon. Friend was of considerable help to the Government and I must give him most of the credit for coming up with the eventual solution. We have now produced amendments Nos. 186 and 187, which are amendments to the Game Act 1831 and the equivalent Scottish legislation, the Game (Scotland) Act 1832. They will increase the fine maxima for offences of trespass in search or pursuit of game, which will cover the evil of hare coursing. For England and Wales, where the mischief is more of a problem than in Scotland, we shall give the courts a specific power under the Game Laws (Amendment) Act 1960, so that when convicting a person of more serious poaching offences, they can order the forfeiture of vehicles that have been used to commit or facilitate the commission of the offence. The measures represent an appropriate response to a distressing and intrusive phenomenon. I hope that they will have a welcome deterrent effect. I hope that they will be welcomed by hon. Members on both sides of the House as, in Committee, Opposition Members were keen to introduce them.