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Grantham Belvoir Hunt meet to continue after vote - held in secret after councillors received threats and abuse - is lost

Abuse, including threats to stab the newly-elected leader of South Kesteven District Council, led to a secret ballot on the Belvoir Hunt.

Coun Virginia Moran called on the authority to withdraw any non-statutory support for the annual Belvoir Hunt.

She wanted the authority to reject permission for the use of SKDC assets in connection with the hunt, to force them to name any charity they were collecting for and to ensure costs associated with the event were recovered.

The full meeting of South Kesteven District Council debated a motion on the Belvoir Hunt. (17783632)
The full meeting of South Kesteven District Council debated a motion on the Belvoir Hunt. (17783632)

However, prior to the motion, new council leader Kelham Cooke stood to call for the vote to be held as a secret ballot.

He said: “There has been a significant amount of abuse and intimidation of individual councillors from across this chamber. I have had phone calls and messages from individuals concerned about their safety within their own homes with regard to this motion.

“I don’t do this lightly, but I am genuinely concerned for councillors within this room. I myself live on my own and have already had threatening messages online calling for me to be stabbed and calling me other names which is not appropriate.”

Coun Moran’s motion followed the conclusion of a criminal case earlier this year, which saw a now-former employee of the Hunt convicted of assaulting two people who were monitoring the Hunt in 2016. The incident saw one of the victims suffer a broken neck and broken vertebrae, while the other suffered cuts and bruises, bleeding down the side of his head and concussion. The hunt itself did not admit liability for the assault, but did pay more than £48,000 in compensation. Four other attackers involved in the assault were never identified or caught.

Coun Moran told councillors she was “very disturbed” to hear of the threats saying the response in support of the amendment had been “astounding”.

She told councillors that by supporting the Hunt “we are condoning their actions and bringing this council into disrepute.”

“People will no longer put up with hunts parading through their towns when they are persistently flouting hunting laws,” she said.

“This council should not be supporting any organisation that has links to criminal activity,” she added.

During the debate, opposing councillors argued the motion would not comply with the Nolan principles – the seven principles of public life expected of public office – or the code of conduct. They also said it would be undemocratic.

Former Grantham mayor and Charter Trustee member Ray Wootten said the hunt, which has run for more than 130 years, was a tradition which attracted hundreds of people.

He said there had been “no police presence until three years ago when protestors turned up”.

He, and wife Linda, both spoke of threats councillors had received from hunt objectors. They included councillors being told “we know where you live” and called “evil scum”.

He said the hunt itself had been called “bloodthirsty morons” and people had posted they “hope they fall off their horse and break their necks”.

Earlier in the meeting, Kit Henson, from the Belvoir Hunt, told councillors it had “continued to operate within the law after the 2004 hunting act came into force.”

He said the hunt itself had not been prosecuted and “continue to operate at the highest standards".

“It is a family-friendly festive tradition and it should not be stopped because of the regrettable action of one individual,” he said.

The motion was rejected 22 against, 12 for, with two abstentions.

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