asked the Solicitor-General for Scotland how many complaints procurators fiscal have received about incidents arising from fox hunting; and how many prosecutions have taken place as a result.
So far as I can ascertain, during the past year procurators fiscal have received 10 reports of such incidents. Seven—involving 29 accused persons — resulted in prosecution. In the remaining three—involving 17 accused—decisions have been taken not to prosecute.
Is the Solicitor-General aware that on 19 January I wrote to the chief constable of Central Scotland police about an incident in my constituency on 3 January when some anti-hunt demonstrators, including two women, complained that they had been deliberately assaulted and their car had been vandalised by members or followers of the Linlithgow and Stirlingshire fox hunt? Now, over 13 weeks since the incident, I am still awaiting a report from the chief constable. Will the Solicitor-General personally ensure that those hunting hooligans are prosecuted and that the police deal with such complaints more impartially and expeditiously until such time as the barbaric practice of fox hunting is abolished altogether?
Having seen the hon. Gentleman in an interview on television with a member of the Scottish Nationalist party, he is certainly in a good position to talk about blood sports.He will appreciate that reports from the police and letters of his to the chief constable are not directly matters for me. However, all complaints that are made, and all allegations of assault involving fox hunting, be it supporters of the hunt or those opposed to it, are properly considered. If he would like to give me further details of the matter about which he is concerned, I shall see that he gets a reply from me once a report has been received by the Crown Office.
Will my hon. and learned Friend note that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) prejudges people on the basis of their legitimate sporting interests and regards as hooligans people who have not been charged and people who have not been convicted? What hope is there for the country when the Labour party does not even believe in the presumption of innocence?
My hon. and learned Friend is right to pick up that element of prejudgement in the hon. Gentleman's question. However, I should say to my hon. and learned Friend and the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) that where there are incidents over fox hunting we attempt, as best we can, to be even-handed and the prosecutions to which I have referred involve both those who are opposed to fox hunting as well as those who support it.