Wiltshire Police has defended rules for staff to disclose links to hunting after the Police and Crime Commissioner himself was accused of having hunt links.

The Countryside Alliance said under the new rules Police and Crime Commissioner Philip Wilkinson should not be in his job as they claimed he participated in hunt fundraising events.

The campaign group's executive Tim Bonner has argued the new rules are a ban on people with links, past or present, to hunts but the police dispute this.

Mr Wilkinson said in a Facebook post: “I shoot, fish and have a knowledge of the countryside where I live, as do many others in the force and my office, I have even been to a hunt ball and watched the occasional Boxing Day hunt, as most country folk have, but I have not been engaged in hunting or anti-hunting activities to a degree that would compromise my impartial position”.

The Country Alliance have said in response to this: “While the framework does not specifically ban officers with links to hunts from working for the force, it does require staff in the Rural Crime Team unit not have links to any hunt, past or present.

“The Alliance argue that ‘links to hunting’, by definition must include point-to-point races and hunt balls which are hunt fundraising events, hunt meets including Boxing Day meets, as well as including officers whose families allow hunts to operate legally on their land.”

Mr Wilkinson has responded in defence of the rules introduced by Chief Constable Catherine Roper.

He said: “Chief Constable Roper is ensuring there is more scrutiny around the suitability of staff who work within the rural crime team by setting key principles, which include ensuring staff do not have, or have had, personal links to hunts OR anti-hunt groups.

“The framework also requires staff disclose links to any rural-based hobby or initiative that could potentially call into question their policing impartiality.

“This is not a blanket ban nor does it mean they would not be allowed to work within the team BUT ensures the Force is aware and adequate mitigating steps can be taken before an officer's impartiality is called into question when investigating any crimes linked to our rural communities.

“Every one of our communities deserve to have trust and confidence in their policing service.”

Chief Constable Catherine Roper supported Mr Wilkinson’s defence of the rules and reiterated it was not a ban.