Police are turning a blind eye to violent attacks on anti-hunt protesters, an MP has claimed.

Chris Williamson, MP for Derby North, pointed the finger at Sussex Police for, he alleges, ignoring the “criminal behaviour” of hunts from across the county.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he labelled the hunt community “rural ruffians” adding “to my mind, they are no different to the mindless yobs that blight some of our urban housing estates, but the police, regrettably, are turning a blind eye to their lawless behaviour.”

The Labour MP told fellow members that he had secured the debate to highlight the increasingly violent behaviour of the hunting community and worrying attitude of the police.

He pointed to a number of incidents in Sussex and singled out both the Crawley and Horsham and Southdown and Eridge hunts.

He alleged: “On November 3, a Crawley and Horsham huntsman was filmed breaking the wing mirror off a moving vehicle and then trying to smash the window with his whip.

“However, Sussex police, who were on the scene, refused to take action.

“On Boxing Day, five armed men from the Southdown and Eridge fox hunt attacked a solitary hunt monitor, beating him around the head and injuring his hands.

“Keys and equipment were stolen from the vehicle, yet the police refused to visit the hunt meet to identify the culprits.”

A Sussex Police spokeswoman strongly denied officers were “turning a blind eye to criminal behaviour” adding that the force successfully prosecuted three members of the Crawley and Horsham Hunt last year.

She added that police investigations are currently under way |with regards to the two incidents mentioned in Parliament.

She said: “The police have to act with impartiality at all times but if criminal activity is reported to |us – or indeed witnessed by |officers – then of course it will be fully investigated, regardless of which party the alleged offenders are from.”

Michelle Nudds, south east regional director of the Countryside Alliance, said its members were frequently subject to harassment and threats by hunt saboteurs.

She added: “We would suggest that however passionately you |feel harassment and threats have no place in our society and we will continue to communicate with police forces to try to ensure the safety of hunts.”