CHESHIRE’S new Chief Constable has hailed efforts to bring people together from both sides of the fox hunting debate as ‘ground-breaking’.

Chf Con Darren Martland was probed by David Keane, police and crime commissioner, on the force’s work to ensure hunts are conducted safely and within the law at a meeting on Monday.

Huntsmen and saboteurs were among the dozens of residents who attended, and Chf Con Darren Martland believes the effort to bring people together was ‘productive and positive’.

“I would describe [Monday] as being ground-breaking in bringing a number of sides together,” he said.

“We will take the review seriously, we have and will continue to implement the recommendations, but we really want to work together with the pro- and anti-hunt people in order to make this work as effectively as we can.

“I think this is a real opportunity for everybody to come together, to work together, and ultimately to uphold the law.

“And for us at Cheshire Constabulary – to be fair, but to be seen to be fair and working with the communities that we serve.”

The meeting came following an independent review on Cheshire’s policing of fox hunting, which was released last December.

Eleven recommendations were made to the force, and Chf Con Martland insists that while the review was positive, the force is ‘not complacent’.

The review highlighted Cheshire Police’s lack of success in securing prosecutions under the Hunting Act 2004.

It is a similar picture across the country, with just six prosecutions in 2017-18 – one being in Cheshire.

Chf Con Martland admits the legislation in its current form ‘does cause us problems’ – with prosecutors required to prove the intent to kill a fox, not just ‘recklessness’ in a hunt.

Knutsford Guardian:

Meanwhile, the gathering of evidence can also be difficult for officers.

Chf Con Martland said: “[Hunts] are fast moving, they are dynamic, very often we are limited in the evidence that we have available – it is very often mobile phone footage.

“But my absolute assurance is that where offences are reported they will be recorded, and where appropriate they will be fully investigated, and if we have the evidence available we will take action.”

However, the mobile phone footage that is vital as evidence can cause Cheshire Police other problems if it is shared on social media.

“[Social media] presents opportunities to make us aware of things that are happening,” Chf Con Martland said.

“But also it does present challenges in that very often, before we come to investigate, it has been viewed by countless individuals on social media.

“We need to make sure that we secure as much evidence as soon as we possibly can, to give us a more realistic opportunity to bring people to justice.”

Mr Keane has invited all Cheshire MPs to discuss the findings of the review and the chance to strengthen the legislation on fox hunting.

He added: “Changing legislation will be about political will and parliamentary time. As PCC, I’m not involved in Parliament, that is over to the MPs.”

WATCH: David Keane has his say on the fox hunting review