Following a meeting with a delegation brought by Martin Salter MP, Home Office minister Vernon Coaker has confirmed that the Government and the police will take very seriously any unlawful activity that targets anglers. Mr Coaker has also confirmed that new measures in the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 can be used against animal rights extremists who target anglers. The new law came into effect on 1st July 2005.
Mr Salter organised the delegation to the Minister, with Jim Glasspool and John Slader of FACT in light of the appalling incident which took place last summer at Bank House Fly Fishery when anglers where attacked by animal rights activists.
In the meeting Mr Coaker, who is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office with responsibility for animal rights extremism, reassured the angling community that such attacks on anglers are thankfully rare, and as such, is very keen that anglers are not deterred from the waterside. The Minister also explained the Government’s cross-departmental strategy against animal rights extremism, which has had considerable success in imprisoning leading activists and decreasing the amount of extremist activities in the last eighteen months.
Mr Coaker also confirmed that under Section 125 of the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 Harassment intended to deter lawful activities a person must not engage in:
â€œa course of conduct which involves harassment of two or more persons and which he knows, or ought to know, involves harassment of those persons, and by which they intended to persuade any person not to do something that he is entitled to do or to do something that he is not under any obligation to do.â€
The maximum penalty for breaching this section is 6 months imprisonment and or a fine of up to Â£5,000. This law allows the police to deal effectively with intimadatory tactics by animal rights extremists and shows that anglers are protected by the law.
Martin Salter MP said:
â€œWe had a very useful meeting with Vernon Coaker and I am delighted with the government’s commitment to tackling animal rights extremists and to locking up the worst of them. It’s good to know that Britain’s 3.5 million anglers can enjoy a days fishing safe in the knowledge that they have the full protection of the law against the violent, lunatic fringe of animal rights extremism following this new legislation. The challenge now is to persuade the Police to use the new powers that Parliament has given them.â€
Mr Coaker followed up the meeting with a letter to Martin Salter and has offered further meetings between Home Office Officials, the Police and Angling bodies to discuss how best to work together in the future.
In his letter Mr Coaker said:
â€œEqually it is important to reassure the angling community that the Government and the police take any unlawful activity against people going about their lawful business very seriously. The Government has in place a cross-departmental strategy to eradicate the threat of animal rights extremism. In accordance with the volume and seriousness of animal rights extremist incidents, this strategy is currently focusing on those extremists whose primary target is animal research. However, we recognise that the extremists do not confine their activities to targeting the research sector, and the measures and structures we have put into place can quickly be deployed wherever they are needed.
The strategy and law enforcement activity is proving successful. An increasing number of leading animal rights extremists are now serving lengthy custodial sentences; and there has been a significant drop in ARE activity in the last eighteen months.â€