Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner accused of 'clear bias'

Philip Wilkinson was elected in 2021. Credit: ITV

Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is accused of showing “clear bias” after privately commenting on a case that he was publicly saying he couldn’t talk about.

ITV News can reveal that despite telling the public he couldn’t comment on public disorder at a hunt meet on 27 December, Philip Wilkinson later used private messaging about the event to reveal personal information about a police officer.

Following the meet at which punches were thrown and arrests subsequently made questions were raised about the connection between Wiltshire Police and hunting. It was suggested an on-duty officer was a regular member of a hunt. 

In public Mr Wilkinson used social media to say “there is a complaints process which has to be followed, so I am unable to comment further” but in a private message seen by ITV News he was saying that “actually the officer is not a member of any hunt and has not been since joining the police.”

Mr Wilkinson told ITV News: “My intention was only to represent the facts, as I know them, about a highly divisive incident and one which has gained much coverage across social media, often with incredibly emotive information. While this may be seen by some as defending a particular viewpoint, this is simply not the case.

“I have been clear, Wiltshire Police will enforce the law impartially, without fear or favour, against whomsoever should break it, from whatever background or whichever side of the hunting argument they sit.”

The Bath Hunt Saboteurs told ITV News: “The fact that the PCC has been messaging strangers the details of an ongoing investigation is just another example of the clear bias we have seen throughout this case. Wiltshire police have not even taken statements from some witnesses yet, so being told the outcome is already decided by the PCC is a shocking revelation.”

Mr Wilkinson’s office revealed on Friday that 10 official complaints have been referred to Wiltshire’s Police Professional Standards Department ”with the nature of these complaints relating to the policing response and allegations surrounding personal information relating to a Wiltshire Police officer.”

The 27 December Boxing Day hunt meet is the same event at which ITV News recently revealed Conservative MP James Gray denies witnessing violence despite standing metres away from it

Following the disorder in Lacock, Wiltshire Police questioned six people under caution and enquiries are ongoing.