Ollie Finnegan

Despite conviction fox killer Ollie Finnegan working with Cheshire Hunt

Huntsman Ollie Finnegan is, perhaps, one of the best examples of criminality in the world of fox hunting. Despite being convicted under the Hunting Act, the Cheshire Hunt continues to employ him to murder foxes.

On 4 February 2023, Cheshire Against Blood Sports witnessed the hunt killing a fox, and hunt staff “shoving the fox’s entrails back inside” the creature’s dead body. The group wrote:

“This was the day the Cheshire Hunt hit a new low. Allowing Ollie Finnegan to continue to roam around the countryside with a pack of hounds after admitting he hunts and kills foxes in a court of law is akin to handing a burglar the keys to a housing estate after a prison release.

This beautiful fox stood no chance, there was little we could do but with a ruthless killer in charge of the hounds and the whole field complicit and watching events unfold right in front of them.”

The group continued:

“As it’s now an ongoing investigation we can’t say much more about the fox, only that it died in brutal circumstances and would clearly have suffered. Olivier Esteve the whip was shoving the fox’s entrails back inside the fox, so he could hand the body to a female rider, this hunt has blood on its hands and its trousers. They then discarded the body like it was a piece of rubbish.”

Finnegan’s court appearances

Cheshire huntsman Finnegan made mainstream news headlines in December 2022 when he pleaded guilty to hunting with dogs, illegal under the Hunting Act. Magistrates stated that he had a “pattern of offending over a period of time” after Finnegan’s own WhatsApp messages incriminated him. He was huntsman for the Quorn hunt at the time. Among the messages found were texts where he bragged that he and his pack had:

“Found 2 brace [of foxes], seen another 2 brace, very busy all night. Hounds hunted well considering the heat.”

He had been previously cleared of illegal hunting with the Quorn Hunt in August 2021. Back then he, along with whipper-in Rhys Matcham, insisted that the hunt had laid an artificial scent for hounds to follow. Even though the League Against Cruel Sports had recorded footage showing a fox emerging from a covert during the meet, the CPS dropped the case part way through, saying there was no prospect of conviction.

Before that, back in 2019, when he was whipper-in for the Meynell and South Staffordshire Hunt, Finnegan once again pleaded not guilty to illegal hunting, despite more LACS footage incriminating him and five others. The case against him was dismissed after two of the hunt members pleaded guilty.


Aerial view of Cheshire Hunt hunting a fox
An aerial view of the Cheshire Hunt chasing a fox on 4 February 2023

Convictions mean nothing to hunts

The Cheshire Hunt clearly doesn’t care about Finnegan’s past appearances in court, and doesn’t place any seriousness on a Hunting Act conviction. And perhaps his notorious reputation is one reason why he has the job. After all, the hunt knows that Finnegan is very willing to deliver what its supporters have likely come for: seeing hounds terrorise and then tear up foxes.

Cheshire Against Blood Sports told Protect The Wild:

“This hunt under his guidance has hunted foxes all season, it’s been relentless. Why he wasn’t sacked immediately is a mystery. No other professional would still be in a job for a criminal breach.”

For normal members of the public, a criminal record might mean that they can’t find a job in their preferred industry. But Finnegan is just one of a number of hunters who have not only kept their jobs, but who have gone on to be employed by other hunts, even after a conviction. For example, the current Essex and Suffolk huntsman, Sam Staniland, pleaded guilty for illegal hunting after he was filmed cub hunting with his former hunt, the Meynall and South Staffordshire, in October 2018. He was fined a pitiful £350, and now enjoys a career with a hunt which is witnessed time and time again breaking the law. And then there’s stag hunter Richard Down. He was convicted of illegal hunting in 2007, and then again in 2010, and appeared in court for a third time in 2018, but was found not guilty. Throughout, he was huntsman for the notorious Quantock Staghounds, and only ended his career with the deer killers after 28 years of “service”.

Support those on the ground

Cheshire Against Blood Sports reported that sabs were also assaulted by Cheshire Hunt followers on 4 February, and that a body camera was damaged. The group said, “body cameras are vital for our safety and any help to replace it would be much appreciated.”

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Featured images via Cheshire Against Blood Sports