Mayor confirms Boxing Day meet will go ahead in Grantham
A leading Grantham councillor has complained of a campaign of ‘intimidation’ from anti-hunt protesters against district councillors.
The complaint by Coun Ray Wootten comes as Grantham Mayor Linda Coutts confirmed yesterday that this year’s traditional Boxing Day meet will go ahead.
It also follows an email from Roddy Brooksto the Mayor’s Parlour which said: “By continuing to invite the Belvoir Hunt to Grantham you are breaking the law. Hunting is illegal and you and the trustees will be personally named in a private prosecution I am bringing.”
Coun Wootten raised the issue of the Boxing Day meet with the Belvoir Hunt at last week’s cabinet meeting of South Kesteven District Council.
He also told members he had passed on complaints to Lincolnshire Police, urging them to patrol the December 26 event.
Lincolnshire Police have since told the councillorthey are aware of the issue and will patrol depending on the ‘threat level'.
Coun Wootten told the meeting: “There have been threats to councillors via social media. I have been informed by colleagues that intimidation using the words ‘we know where you live’ has been used and some councillors are concerned for theirs and their family’s safety.
“When my wife (Coun Linda Wootten) was Mayor, she was targeted by hundreds of anti-hunt protesters but she is a strong character and didn’t give in to any intimidation carrying out her role for the majority not the few.”
Coun Wootten said he was forced to ‘block comments’ sent to him on social media as they were “so disgusting.”
He told the cabinet meeting he raised the matter 'because councillors represent all the community and it is their duty to listen to all sides of the argument'.
“But they should be able to do this without fear and intimidation not because someone shouts the loudest or feels the need to be abusive.”
Council leader Matthew Lee responded he too had seen the comments, branding them “absolutely atrocious.” He said he was concerned that Coun Ashley Baxter had posted on the same ‘page’ as the abuse. But “rather than point out their error” Coun Baxter suggested councillors be removed at the ballot box.
Coun Lee added: “I do not mind who gets elected but it’s incumbent on all of us that anti-social threats and behaviour are challenged.
“If we see it, we should challenge it and report it. I am very grateful you (Coun Wootten) should report it to the chief constable.”
Online campaigns against the traditional Grantham Boxing Day meet have seen mock posters on the #Grantham twitter feed featuring town mayor Linda Coutts, but these appear to have since disappeared.
Though such details are in the public domain, through her role as a councillor, they contained her home address.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for Grantham Against Bloodsports accused Coun Wootten of making ‘inflammatory’ comments.
She rejected his claim a hunt opponent was ‘intimidating’ in attempting to talk with Grantham Charter Trustees, saying he has been denied meetingswith and information from the trustees, who are responsible for meeting with the Belvoir Hunt.
She said of allegations of threats: “ We too have received them. We have reported them, deleted them and moved on. I can hand on heart state that no threats were made by any members of Grantham Against Blood Sports. And we can not be held responsible for any comments made by anyone else on social media.
“We have always maintained that any communications be polite and professional. We would encourage anyone to report threats to the authorities for investigation.”
The spokeswoman further told the Journal: “What I feel most disappointed and truly sad about, is that the Mayor Linda Coutts had an opportunity to change the course of history.
“She had it in her power to rescind the invite of the Belvoir Hunt, solely based on their bad behaviour and recent convictions this year. She could have said, come back next year if you keep your nose clean.”
The spokeswoman added: “We ‘Grantham Against Blood Sports’ are not hunt saboteurs. We are Grantham residents who do not believe that the Belvoir Hunt deserve to be invited by our Mayor at this time.
“We would have absolutely no argument, if we honestly believed that the Belvoir Hunt were behaving honourably and were keeping within the law of the Hunting Act 2004.”
A statement from the Mayor’s Parlour issued yesterday said: “The Mayor of Grantham Lynda Coutts has announced that The Hunt will be greeted on Boxing Day.
“This event has been greeted by the people of Grantham for many years and it would be a shame for the people of Grantham that enjoy this event not to be able to see this with their families. The Mayor and Charter Trustees take no part in The Hunt itself. We hope that this event will be enjoyed peacefully by all.”
Roddy Brooks did not respond to our request for comment.