THE Chief Constable of North Yorkshire has joined a growing band of rural police chiefs in believing that a ban on fox hunting would lead to a massive surge in rural crime.
The reason: hundreds of Yorkshire fox hunters are determined to continue even if the present anti-hunt Bill goes through parliament - and the already overstretched North Yorkshire force would be forced to divert huge resources from fighting "real" crime to go in pursuit of people who are at present law-abiding.
Chief Constable Della Canning is already in a very difficult situation, having just been given a massive 70% budget increase, which has left thousands of council tax payers fuming because it has been accompanied by what many regard as cuts in an already poor service.
The old Skipton police division, for instance, has been scrapped and merged with Harrogate - and there has been a spate of complaints from Craven residents that even emergency calls to Harrogate receive much delayed attention.
Now, she has admitted that the force would have extreme difficulty in trying to arrest foxhunters if the ban were imposed. She has nowhere to keep horses or hounds, which would have to be kept as evidence, and the force's mounted police unit - which might have been able to follow mounted huntsmen - was scrapped a few years ago in a cost-cutting exercise.
A growing number of police chiefs in mainly rural forces have expressed alarm that diverting resources to chase hunters would divert them from the growing menace of rural crime.
And the situation in North Yorkshire would be particularly acute, for the county boasts 19 hunts, harriers and beagle packs - one of the largest concentrations in the UK.