Avon Vale Hunt – Keeping Magistrates Busy!

Tom Ledbury (far right) supervises a dig out of a fox to be thrown to hounds as a young child looks on.
Tom Ledbury (far right) supervises a dig out of a fox to be thrown to hounds as a young child looks on.
Tom Ledbury (far right) supervises a dig out of a fox to be thrown to hounds as a young child looks on.

More drama this week as the Avon Vale implosion is still being dragged out before the courts. This time, it was the turn of Tom Ledbury, an Avon Vale Hunt terrierman, who was sentenced this week to a 12 month community order requiring him to carry out 240 hours of unpaid work, for his role in a video which surfaced last year following raids conducted by RSPCA and police officers around the country including hunt kennels and the homes of ‘terriermen’.  

The raids which led to several arrests went on to uncover videos which had been filmed at various hunt meets around the country depicting many acts of illegal hunting and animal cruelty.

Ledbury (driving) and equally perverse co-conspirator Charlie Ball (back right) taken at a previous meet of the Avon Vale Hunt, inflicting unspeakable brutality on wildlife since forever. Photo Bath Hunt Saboteurs.

One of those videos was recorded on Christmas Eve 2020, when the nation was in the grips of another Covid wave, the then Prime Minister Boris Johnson brought in a ‘rule of 6’ for social gatherings in the autumn, and under pressure from his minister Michael Gove, fox hunts were exempted from the rules, allowed to continue to meet in large numbers, and hunt – illegally – as they have always done, subsequently. It was during Gove’s exemption period that this particular act of depravity was filmed and shared around amongst like-minded perverse fox hunting chat groups.

The video is made more chilling by the fact a small child – believed to be Ledbury’s – is present. The child is surrounded by excited adults, keen to get on with their kill. He is pulled around by terrierman Charlie Ball, and huntsman Stuart Radbourne, making room for the fox as the animal is lifted out by Kennel Huntsman Oliver Thompson, who then throws the terrified fox to the waiting pack of hounds.

Top:  Stuart Radbourne senses the fox is near to being pulled out, and grabs the child.
Middle:  Terrierman Charlie Ball pushes the child back with his arm to make room for the fox
Bottom:  Ball continues to pull the child out of the way, just as Oliver Thompson lifts the fox from the sett.
Top:  Stuart Radbourne senses the fox is near to being pulled out, and grabs the child.
Middle:  Terrierman Charlie Ball pushes the child back with his arm to make room for the fox
Bottom:  Ball continues to pull the child out of the way, just as Oliver Thompson lifts the fox from the sett.

Ledbury, who is holding a spade, appears to be doing the supervising of the dig out. Ledbury pleaded guilty in Swindon magistrates on 18th March to aiding and abetting another to commit an offence namely unnecessary suffering to a fox.  A fifth man, who was not identified at the time, is stood with his back to the camera, his boot pressing into a blocked entrance to the sett, a spade resting at his feet as he helps to whip the hounds back. Radbourne and Thompson were sentenced for their part in the barbaric scene last November, receiving prison sentences of 18 weeks suspended for 12 months; and 20 weeks suspended for 2 years respectively.  Both were convicted under Animal Cruelty legislation. 

Thompson was further convicted for another charge of causing unnecessary suffering, in an additional video from earlier in the same year, where he was recorded baiting a young fox to his young terrier called Nellie.

Thompson faced additional offences on top of the Christmas Eve dig out for causing unnecessary suffering to the terrier as well as the fox, for an earlier video recorded in July 2020, when his wife Felicity filmed him baiting the terrified animal to the terrier.
Thompson faced additional offences on top of the Christmas Eve dig out for causing unnecessary suffering to the terrier as well as the fox, for an earlier video recorded in July 2020, when his wife Felicity filmed him baiting the terrified animal to the terrier.

Radbourne was also convicted earlier the same year for a separate incident in December 2022 of an almost identical scenario along with his then whipper-in Aaron Fookes, in which the pair had dug out a “brace” (a pair) of foxes and again threw one to the hounds.  Others present on that day were either never charged, or had their charges dropped by the CPS who decided to present ‘no evidence’ to court.  Radbourne was only convicted of Hunting Act offences for his role, with Fookes receiving a paltry community order for more serious animal cruelty charges.  None of these men have received bans on keeping animals despite their persistent use of dogs to commit these offences.

20th December 2022: Top: Whipper-In Aaron Fookes throws the first fox to the hounds 
Bottom: Fookes indicates the direction of the second bolted fox as the first fox is savaged by the half the pack of hounds in front of him, as Radbourne runs to his horse to continue the hunt for the second fox with the rest of the pack.
20th December 2022: Top: Whipper-In Aaron Fookes throws the first fox to the hounds
Bottom: Fookes indicates the direction of the second bolted fox as the first fox is savaged by the half the pack of hounds in front of him, as Radbourne runs to his horse to continue the hunt for the second fox with the rest of the pack.

Back to the December 2020 incident, Ledbury was in court before Christmas 2023 along with Charlie Ball.  To date we do not know whether Ball received any convictions for his role. We do know that the ‘fifth man’ was never pursued as no appeal to identify him was made at the time, with the video only surfacing publicly some time after the initial convictions of Radbourne and Thompson.

The ‘Fifth Man’ stood with a spade in front of a freshly blocked entrance, whipping the hounds back until they are ready to kill.
The ‘Fifth Man’ stood with a spade in front of a freshly blocked entrance, whipping the hounds back until they are ready to kill.

In other words, neither the RSPCA nor Wiltshire Police deemed it worthy enough of a public appeal to identify all the perpetrators.  Had they done so, the name of the ‘fifth man’ could have been passed to them, and some modicum of justice served on him.  For what it is worth hunt sabs have since passed his name to police.

The ‘Fifth Man’ whooping in delight at the sight of a tiny petrified animal being torn apart.  His name has been passed to police and RSPCA.
The ‘Fifth Man’ whooping in delight at the sight of a tiny petrified animal being torn apart.  His name has been passed to police and RSPCA.
The Fifth Man may have escaped justice, he has since deleted his social media and gone to ground.  Let us hope he is dug up and may his evil deeds come back to bite him sometime.
The Fifth Man may have escaped justice, he has since deleted his social media and gone to ground.  Let us hope he is dug up and may his evil deeds come back to bite him sometime.

A Hunt Saboteurs spokesperson said:

“Since all these videos have surfaced, the Avon Vale Hunt, having saw all its leading figures convicted not just of Hunting Act offences, but also of Animal Welfare Offences, and has been disbarred from membership of hunting’s so-called governing body, the worthless British Hound Sports Association and senior masters as well as the huntsman on lifetime bans, but the reality is for almost two decades this has been the conduct of not just the Avon Vale Hunt, but of every so-called trail hunt in the country.”

“This is trail hunting, and as a barrage of recent convictions around the country shows, they have no intention of ever stopping killing wildlife, and they said as much when the ban was first brought in. Numerous serving police officers have ridden with this and other hunts, alongside members of the judiciary, MP’s and members of the House of Lords, and these crimes often take place in their presence, with their knowledge and even – as the infamous Webinars showed – under their leadership.  A new government must urgently bring to an end one of the most “farcical eras in criminal justice in history” (Matt Longman, Chief Superintendent on Fox Hunting Crime; National Police Chiefs Council).”

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