A BARONESS has told a top policeman the community on Exmoor has lost confidence in the ability of the Avon and Somerset Constabulary to police it effectively, independently and fairly.

At a packed public meeting in Exford village hall today Baroness Ann Mallalieu, barrister and politician, and president of the Countryside Alliance, told Supt Gary Davies there had been a crass lack of sensitivity and a breach of faith by the police in the prosecution of two local huntsmen under the Hunting Act.

Speaking at the meeting, called in the wake of the police prosecution of Maurice Scott, master of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds, and hunt servant Peter Heard, the baroness said: "I criticize the police with regret, but they have allowed themselves to be pressured by animal rights activists."

Supt Davies told the meeting: "If we are presented with evidence we have an obligation to review and consider our actions.

"We've tried to navigate our way through this legislation and we have realized that we will always be criticized by one side or the other."

See Thursday's County Gazette for the full story and pictures.