Wiltshire Police handling of Boxing Day hunt protest under investigation

The Avon Vale Hunt meet in the village of Lacock in Wiltshire for the annual Boxing Day hunt. Credit: ITV

Investigations are underway into how police handled violent clashes at a Boxing Day hunt in Wiltshire.

Tensions rose in Lacock, near Chippenham, as protesters and hunt saboteurs arrived before the annual Avon Vale Boxing Day Hunt.

Violence broke out and 10 complaints have since been made about how Wiltshire Police handled the incident.

Wiltshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Philip Wilkinson will now assess the complaints.

A statement issued by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said the assessment process is "ongoing".

It added: "So far, 10 official complaints have been referred to Wiltshire Police’s professional standards department in connection with that date, with the nature of these complaints relating to the policing response and allegations surrounding personal information relating to a Wiltshire Police officer."

Violence emerged as the Avon Vale Hunt passed through the anti-hunt demonstration which was set up by the Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs – although organisers say they do not condone violence.

Some of the saboteurs have criticised Wiltshire Police and claimed one of the officers is a full member of the hunt.

Three people - aged 18, 26, and 30 - were arrested in connection with the violence in the following days, and the force issued an appeal to track down three more.

Only those who directly witnessed the incident or who were directly affected by it can make an eligible complaint, according to the OPCC.

A petition on Change.org titled “Alleged Wiltshire police collusion/corruption in policing Avon Vale hunt” has attracted almost 9,000 signatures.

It claims that just two officers were sent to police the event, despite the force knowing there was a risk of violence and calls for an explanation from Wiltshire Police of its approach.

Wiltshire Police has been contacted for comment.