I'm one of the majority that is very worried about Police and Crime Commissioners being sponsored by a political party.
And the reality is that one can't put a blue Rizla between rural Conservatives and the Countryside Alliance; many Westcountry MPs are active members this powerful pressure group. This could reflect on how wildlife crime is dealt with by the police in future, as it is most likely that the Conservative PCC candidate, Tony Hogg, will win the upcoming election.
On Mr Hogg's website, there is a tab "Contact me". Twice I have emailed and asked if he personally supports the repeal of the Hunting Act; his answer could indicate how he might prioritise wildlife crime – and I have suffered from wildlife crime myself. I have had neither an acknowledgement nor any reply.
Lacking a reply, I thought I would put my most recent request into the public realm, by writing to this letter. I emailed a letter that asked Mr Hogg whether he wished to see hunting with hounds decriminalised?
Under the heading 'Rural Crime' on his website, Mr Hogg talks about a farmer (and also a Conservative councillor) who had his quad bike stolen.
Well, I have had £300 worth of tools nicked from a shed in a woodland I own, but I don't call this a rural crime – merely a routine theft – as this could happen in central Exeter.
However, a few years back I found a dead buzzard and six dead crows on my land – and as the keeper at a nearby shoot was shortly afterwards convicted of laying out pheasant carcasses laced with illegal poison, it is likely that birds on my own land had eaten the same poison. Such a crime is clearly rural and damages my conservation efforts.
Now, one role of a PCC is to prioritise different sorts of crime. So, perhaps, Mr Hogg may put much effort into street robbery but at the expense of fraud and financial crimes that often use a large police resource. And equally, Mr Hogg will have to prioritise wildlife crime. Is it a high priority or a low priority? Well, at the moment Mr Hogg probably not be in a position to make a firm commitment on wildlife crime, but I am sure he will think about it. And as far as the general public are concerned, wanting, or not wanting, the Hunting Act overturned may give that public a hint of Mr Hogg's thinking. And that could influence the public's vote, so the public should be told.
So, Mr Hogg, as my probable PCC, please let me know your view on this. Or is it that as a PCC candidate your Conservative back-room minders have told you not to reply? Or are you now just another politician and as an Irish folksong about a politician hiding his intentions puts it: "It's best be a coward for five minute than dead man all your life"? It will take you ten minutes to send a letter to the WMN on this issue – I am sure other readers would like to know. I challenge you to write.