All six police officers accused of attacking pro-hunt campaigners in Parliament Square have been cleared.

The officers, who policed the Countryside Alliance's 20,000-strong protest against the hunting ban in 2004, faced charges ranging from common assault to causing actual bodily harm.

Yesterday PC Kurt Schenk became the last of the officers to have the case against him dropped.

The other five who were either found not guilty or had their charges dismissed were PC Neil Latteman, PC Edward Cudmore, Sergeant Darren Murphy, PC Tim Grant and PC Barry Jenkins.

All six were part of the Met's Territorial Support Group and have been returned to their full duties.

'Difficult demonstration'

"These officers policed a very long and very difficult demonstration on 15 September 2004," said the Met's Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur.

"They were faced with a hard core of protestors who were both determined and violent, uninterested in lawful protest and intent on breaking barriers to gain entry in to the Houses of Parliament.

"Police officers - doing what is essentially their job - were faced with a barrage of missiles that included fireworks, sections of scaffolding and barriers.

"Sixty police officers were injured that day, mainly as a result of crowd action.

"Every day police officers are required to go in to situations where bravery is not just expected, but demanded. These officers do this without question.

"Clearly there are lessons to be learnt," he added. "We will be looking to work with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to examine what these lessons are".

Sir Ian Blair, the Met chief, acknowledged that police "must be held fully accountable for our actions".

But he added: "For these six officers - as well as the many other officers who lived under the shadow of prosecution, and for their families and loved ones - this has been a long and difficult two years."

Ministers blamed

In response to the verdict, a Countryside Alliance spokesman said: "Something went seriously wrong with the policing in Parliament Square on 15th Sept 2004 but after this we are still no closer to finding out what.

"The hunting community does not blame the police, but it does blame the Government," he added.

"It was they who enraged thousands of ordinary people by allowing the Hunting Act onto the statute books against all logic and democratic accountability. It was they who goaded the crowd and put the police in an impossible position."

The IPCC, which is due to release a report on its inquiry into the officers' conduct next month, said it "noted" the CPS decision to drop the charges against PC Schenk.

"The IPCC will now ask the Met to consider whether PC Schenk should face any disciplinary action," the police watchdog added.