LACK of space in print this week meant the Gazette and Herald and Wiltshire Times were only able to publish extracts from a statement issued by Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Jonathon Seed in connection with our article on the abuse messages he and his team have received.

We are happy to publish the full statement, which like all other submissions to this newspaper has been subject to editing, below.

"I have lived in rural Wiltshire for most of my adult life. Like millions of people in the UK, I take part in country sports such as game shooting and fly fishing. For 20 years, until 2012 I was a Master of two local hunts in Wiltshire. I finished nine years ago and I have not ridden with any hunt for several years. I am not a member of any fox or deer hunt or any of their supporters’ clubs.

"Throughout the time that I was involved in the hunt, I only engaged in lawful countryside activities. Foxhunting was made illegal in 2004 but before then it was a lawful activity that thousands of people took part in all over our rural countryside. It is true that along with many other local people and politicians I campaigned for a repeal of the ban, but as time has gone on I have changed my opinion on the ban and in recent years I have formed the view that there are more important issues to be dealt with by Parliament, our communities have moved on and I believe that we should leave the legislation as it is.

"Despite what has been quoted all over social media and in comments in mainstream media, I have never been convicted of any wildlife offence or had any such allegation heard before a court. In 2012, the RSPCA sent me a summons by post to answer allegations of illegal hunting. These allegations had been reported to the police by the RSPCA but neither the police nor the CPS pursued the case. The RSPCA took out a private prosecution. When I arrived at the magistrates court in Swindon the RSPCA produced no evidence in support of their allegations against me – because there was no evidence - so the case was not even heard. It is not true that “a deal” was done for the allegations against me to be dropped and I recall the judge made some very strong remarks about the abuse of the process by the RSPCA. This was a case that cost the RSPCA approximately £70,000 in charitable donations that could have gone towards looking after animals in need rather than being wasted.

"I cannot comment about the other case involving interfering with a badger sett, as I was not present when the offences were committed. I understand that those involved pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity with mitigating factors accepted by the judge (rescuing their dog, Jimmy), but I was not involved in that case.

"All individuals who wish to stand as a candidate for the Conservative party are required to declare convictions, and there are some offences that preclude you from standing for the Conservatives such as bankruptcy, corrupt or illegal practises and being imprisoned for more than three months in the last five years. When I first stood for election in 2007 and more recently when I applied to run for PCC in 2019, I have even had to declare driving offences from my 40 plus years of motoring to the party. This is one of the checks and balances that political parties put in place and obviously I satisfy these requirements.

"Another check and balance that is in place for local politicians is the requirement to declare interests and although this is usually of a financial or pecuniary nature, I do recall declaring I was a hunt member. I am also required to declare that I am involved with several charities in order that it is clear when grants are being provided that I am linked to charities that will benefit from such financial support. This is the case for all local politicians. My declaration of interests has always been correct and up to date throughout my time as a councillor.

"I am very aware that hunting continues to be a very emotive subject for a small proportion of our residents – those who are anti hunt and those who are pro hunt. For my part I have been very clear that fox hunting is now illegal and I do not support the breaking of the Hunting Act or any other laws. If there is law breaking in our countryside then our police have a responsibility to bring the perpetrators before the courts. It doesn’t matter how many times I am asked this question, my answer will be the same, I support robust policing of all illegal activity in the countryside including illegal hunting, hare coursing, violence, and illegal interference with lawful activities in the countryside.

"The role of PCC does not involve operational policing. It is for the Chief Constable to deploy resources when they see fit based on threats, harm and risk to our communities. If I am elected I will expect the Chief Constable to police the countryside robustly and ensure that the laws are upheld. It is important to understand that the Chief Constable is independent of the PCC.

"It has been suggested that I have received funding for my campaign from the Countryside Alliance, other pro hunting organisations and hunts. This is not true. I have received no funding from them and I would not accept funding from such organisations. I don’t believe I am the “candidate of choice” for any particular lobby or extremist groups, whereas I am aware that the anti hunt groups are supporting other candidates. There is always a danger with being supported by those with extremist views that they will expect something in return and I will certainly not be in the pocket of any groups if I am elected in May.

Of course I am aware of the online petition and social media activity. The overwhelming majority of those who have signed the petition do not live in Wiltshire or Swindon and it is of no relevance whether people from outside our are have confidence in me as a PCC candidate – that is for the electorate of Wiltshire and

Swindon to decide at the ballot box. These people are simply trying to interfere with the democratic process, intimidate and abuse my team, my family and me. In the same way that I will stand up for others being bullied, I will neither respond to nor submit to the current cyber bullying that I am experiencing from these animal rights extremists. I have been appalled at the levels of abuse and threats, including death threats, that have been sent to me and my team but I know that the silent majority of law abiding residents in Wiltshire and Swindon will not want bullies to prevail."