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Thomas Ledbury convicted terrierman Avon Vale Hunt

Fox thrown to hounds – another Avon Vale Hunt member sentenced

A terrierman who was working for the now disbanded Avon Vale Hunt when he ‘supervised’ a live fox being thrown to a pack of hounds in December 2020 has been sentenced. 38-year-old Thomas Ledbury pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting another to commit an offence, namely unnecessary suffering to a fox.

Ledbury, who lives in Corsham, Wiltshire, was filmed on a mobile phone watching another person remove a fox from a badger sett before throwing it to a group of dogs. The group were accompanied by a young child during the incident near Melksham on December 24, 2020.

As so often in these cases, the punishment was wholly inadequate. Ledbury was sentenced at Swindon Magistrates’ Court on 18 March to a 12-month community order with a requirement to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work.

Incident recorded by cheering hunt support

Footage of the incident that Ledbury took part in went around the world. It fatally undermined the ‘trail hunting’ narrative that pro-hunt lobbyists had spent years trying to create.

Taken on 20 December 2022 by Harry Mayo, a member of the hunt, and subsequently leaked, it was graphic and shocking. It showed whipper-in Aaron Fookes kneeling down over the entrance of a badger sett with his arms down into it and pulling out a live fox. The then-hunt master Stuart Radbourne could be heard “making whooping noises” before the fox was thrown to the hunt’s hounds and killed. Ledbury can be clearly identified standing to one side enabling the offence to take place.

In July last year, Fookes (on the left in the image below) was charged with fox hunting and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. He was handed an 18-month community order for animal cruelty and told to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. For the fox hunting offence he was fined £833 and told to pay £42.50 costs and a £330 victim surcharge. Radbourne (on the right) pleaded guilty to “being jointly concerned with others in causing unnecessary suffering to a fox by causing it to be thrown to and savaged by hounds”. He received a suspended 18-week custodial sentence, fined £384, and told to pay £42.50 costs and a £154 surcharge. He was subsequently charged again in October with causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal and received an 18-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

The Avon Vale's Fookes and Radbourne
Fookes and Radbourne, convicted of wildlife crimes with Avon Vale Hunt

Solicitor Sam Harkness (who apparently specialises in ‘animal welfare’ and ‘Hunting Act’ cases and defended terriermen Robert Mills and Jack Mills in a horrific cruelty case), represented both men and said at the time that press coverage of the incident has “utterly destroyed the lives of the defendants”. Fookes subsequently left the country because of threats made to him and now works as an agricultural contractor, whilst Radbourne was reported to be “struggling with significant debts” and working as a farmer and equestrian. Few of us will be weeping tears on their behalf…

Oliver Thompson, who was also present on the day of the dig out, was previously found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to a fox following trial and sentenced to a 20-week suspended prison sentence. Thomson was also convicted when footage he shared of him tormenting a young fox in a trap, with his dog Nellie being encouraged to bark and menace the animal at very close quarters, was leaked.

Radbourne and the Avon Vale Hunt are serial offenders. He had previously pleaded guilty in 2013 to interfering with a badger sett. He was also charged under the Hunting Act, along with four other Avon Vale members, including disgraced Wiltshire councillor and ex-Avon Vale hunt master Jonathon Seed. In that incident, Radbourne was seen “waist-deep” in dirt. The prosecutor at the time said:

“There had been considerable interference with the sett, digging and filling in the entrances. In total there were 15 entrances to the sett, 11 of which had been blocked. RSPCA Inspector Ian Burns, who turned up at the site, described it as ‘the worst find he has ever witnesses in his 25 years of being an inspector’.”

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A disgraced – and disgraceful – hunt

Hunting’s so-called ‘governing body’, the British Hound Sports Association (BHSA), was forced by public pressure to permanently expel the Avon Vale following the airing of the damning footage. The Hunt disbanded but it’s still unclear whether its members joined other local hunts such as the Beaufort or the notorious Mendip Farmers, which is supported and hosted by Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and his family.

Multiple sources suggested at the time that the Hunt’s hounds were handed over to Radbourne who kept them at his equestrian centre in Bromham, just a few miles from where the dig out and all that cruelty took place.

Wiltshire Hunt Sabs, who invested years in documenting the crimes of the Avon Vale Hunt, described them as “the most violent and prolific fox hunt”. Following the public announcement that the BHSA had expelled the Avon Vale Hunt, the sabs said:

“May their arrogance in sharing and boasting about their disgusting double kill be the ultimate downfall of all “trail” hunting.

“RIP to those two beautiful innocent foxes, and to all the Wiltshire wildlife that has suffered as a result of these disgusting people for decades.”

None of these men should be at large. They are a very real danger to wildlife. It’s shameful that our judiciary appears not to recognise that fact and is repeatedly giving serial offenders suspended sentences.

 

wilthisre hunt sabs tweet on thomas ledbury convicted criminal formerly avon vale hunt

  • BREAKING: Wiltshire Hunt Sabs are claiming in a series of tweets that Ledbury is currently employed by Bath & North East Somerset Council (BANES) as a contractor repairing street and park furniture. His multi-year contract (which runs until April 2025) is worth a staggering £270,000. If readers would like to suggest to BANES that Ledbury’s contract should be terminated in light of his conviction, tweet them at @bathnes and/or email Patricia_Okowa@BATHNES.GOV.UK

 

Support those on the ground

While the Avon Vale no longer ceases to exist as a registered pack, its former members are still free to terrorise wildlife in the southwest with other hunts. As usual monitors and hunt saboteurs have been out in force this season to prevent ‘hunters’ from killing more foxes.

  • Donate to Wiltshire Hunt Sabs here. Donate to Bath Hunt Sabs here.