The appointment of a rural crime officer at Wiltshire Police has sparked controversy online – after it was claimed that she is a member of a ‘banned’ hunt.
PC Cheryl Knight announced her new role in a Facebook post on the Wiltshire Rural Crime Team page, with an anti-hunt group quickly suggesting that she is a member of the Avon Vale Hunt.
The news comes just two weeks after numerous members of the same hunt were arrested when footage appeared to show them digging foxes out of a hole and throwing them to a pack of hounds.
The alleged offences are under investigation by Wiltshire Police and following a review of the video, Hound Sports Regulatory Authority (HSRA) permanently expelled Avon Vale Hunt.
Now there are fresh concerns, this time over the appointment of PC Knight – who appears to have ridden with both The Avon Vale Hunt and The Beaufort Hunt.
The College of Policing’s Code of Ethics reads: “Membership of groups or societies, or associations with groups or individuals, must not create an actual or apparent conflict of interest with police work and responsibilities.”
Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs argue that in her role as a rural crime officer, she’ll be attending reports of fox hunting – and her alleged affiliation with hunts could amount to a conflict of interest.
The anti-hunt group published four photographs which appear to have been uploaded to PC Knight’s Facebook profile and are publically available to view.
Two photographs appear to show PC Knight riding a horse, with one of the posts tagged as ‘at The Beaufort Hunt’.
Another photograph shows a small pack of hounds in a field, whilst the other photograph is of The Avon Vale Hunt.
On social media, dozens of people have called for her to step down from her new role.
One person wrote: “What a joke. The incompetence is staggering. She actively takes part in crimes against nature. Should be sacked.”
Another said: “I don’t understand how you can go fox hunting and police the hunt. Not possible. You should move to a different department. No one will have faith in you otherwise.”
An angry local penned: “Can you explain why you are a member of the Beaufort and Avon hunt?? Surely a conflict of interest here with your police duties. Step down.”
A spokesperson for Wiltshire Police said: “It is not illegal for someone working for a Police Force to be affiliated with a hunt organisation.
“We wouldn’t comment on alleged affiliations or membership of individual officers to any hunt but images and captions used in the replies to this post are between 4 and 15+ years old and are not representative of the officer’s current role.
“We do expect all of our officers regardless of rank or role to carry out their duties impartially, without fear or favour. We will act impartially and will not hesitate to take appropriate action against any organisation, group or individual who break the law.”
The ability to comment on the Facebook post about PC Knight’s appointment has since been turned off.
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