Police are appealing for witnesses of illegal hunting to contact them directly with information which could provide vital evidence.

Officers are currently investigating suspected actual bodily harm on a 29-year-old man which occurred during an altercation between members of the Silverton Hunt and members of the public, some of whom are understood to be hunt saboteurs, at Upton Pyne Hill, Brampford Speke on Saturday 14 March.

Police are also investigating criminal damage to a vehicle belonging to a member of the public in connection with the incident which occurred between 1.20pm and 3.45pm.

The incident has generated considerable interaction across social media. But it is clear that while incidents appear online, they may remain under-reported to the police.

Officers require unedited footage to be provided through official police channels at the earliest opportunity – by the person who recorded the footage.

Incidents that are only discussed on social media cannot be investigated fully: the presence of video footage on social media may in fact jeopardise police enquiries and be regarded as prejudicial by a court.

Sergeant Richard Stonecliffe, said: “We take allegations of illegal hunting across the Force seriously, but we can’t rely on edited footage posted on Facebook or Twitter. It’s crucial that members of the public come directly to us with potential evidence of a crime, such as video footage.

“There may be occasions where the owner of such footage unwittingly jeopardises an investigation; when releasing footage publically, the perpetrators of an alleged crime are forewarned of an impending investigation giving them the opportunity to come up with alibis or other distortions.

“In addition, should a case go to court, a judge might deem footage which has been published and received a lot of public attention on social media, to prejudice the case.

“We would encourage witnesses of any offences to share unedited footage and images with us directly, and be prepared to give statements to allow us to investigate any allegation of criminality.

“Sometimes our officers arrive at the scene of an incident and witnesses are unwilling to share footage or give statements, but without eyewitnesses and their statements, these matters cannot be investigated.”

Officers are aware of the sensitivities and the high-emotions that are linked to these incidents and urge anyone with relevant information to contact police via 101@dc.police.uk or 101.

Anyone with any information about the above crime which could assist police enquiries is asked to get in touch quoting crime reference, CR/022298/20.