Oliver Thompson: hunter avoids prison after torturing foxes

Former huntsman Oliver Thompson has walked free from prison after baiting foxes. Thompson was given a suspended sentence of 20 weeks, meaning that if he isn’t caught breaking the law in the next two years, he will not go to jail.

The RSPCA successfully prosecuted the hunter, who consequently was forced to leave his role as huntsman of the Old Berkshire Hunt. He pleaded guilty to two charges of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal in two separate incidents, which took place when he was whipper-in and kennel huntsman at the Avon Vale Hunt.

One incident occurred in July 2020. Mobile phone footage – obtained by the Hunt Saboteurs Association – showed Thompson using a spade handle to roughly remove a fox cub from a cage. The video also showed the hunter holding the cub around her neck, repeatedly forcing her towards a young terrier. At the time, the HSA said that Thompson was training the dog to do a key aspect of terrier work – to attack foxes that have gone underground inside a hole.

The footage was filmed by his wife, Felicity Thompson. She was initially charged too, but the case against here was dismissed.

The British Hound Sports Association (the so-called ‘governing body’ of banned hunting) was forced to suspend the hunter after reports circulated that the police had begun investigating him. Thompson then resigned from his role at the Old Berkshire Hunt.


The second incident took place on Christmas Eve 2020. Thompson and fellow hunter Stuart Radbourne threw a fox to a pack of hounds as a child looked on. Radbourne was sentenced separately in November 2023. The dogs tore the live fox to shreds, and the incident was filmed and shared with others.

Paltry sentences

Although it is a victory that both Thompson and Radbourne have been convicted for the torture of foxes, the sentences given to those who commit such crimes is not enough of a deterrent. In addition to his suspended sentence, Thompson was told to complete 300 hours of unpaid work, as well as pay prosecution costs of £2,500.

Meanwhile, when Radbourne was sentenced, he was given an eighteen-week suspended sentence, meaning that if he isn’t caught committing another offence over the next year, he will also escape prison. Over the next twelve months he must carry out 200 hours of unpaid work. He also has to pay £750 in court costs, as well as £128 to fund victim services.

Although Thompon’s dog Nelly was seized by the RSPCA, neither man was banned from keeping animals in the future. As we pointed out when Radbourne was sentenced, this is ludicrous: both men get their sick kicks from using dogs, and should not be trusted to look after them.

avon vale dig out foxes

As for Radbourne, he is now a serial offender, carrying out multiple depraved acts of animal cruelty. He was one of three men charged under the Hunting Act for another horrific incident, which sparked national outrage when footage was aired on ITV News back in February (image above).

That time, Radbourne and another man pleaded guilty after footage showed the Avon Vale Hunt leaning into a freshly dug hole. A fox was then dropped into the pack of hounds to be ripped apart, while a second fox ran from the hole, and was then chased by more hounds. He was fined a ridiculous £384, and was told to pay £42.50 costs, along with a £154 surcharge.

A third man, Alex Warden, pleaded not guilty for this act which shocked the nation, and he will appear in court on 21 December. Even if he is found guilty, we shouldn’t hold our breaths for any significant punishment.

Depraved hunters need to be stopped

This latest sentencing shows, once more, what most of us already know: that fox hunting staff are not harmless men carrying out a rural tradition. They are dangerous to wildlife and dogs alike, and judges across the country need to sentence them appropriately.

Sentencing guidelines for hunters convicted under the Hunting Act mean that hunt staff will only ever receive fines for their crimes. But in May 2023, the Sentencing Council announced that sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty offences – including unnecessary suffering – committed on or after 29 June 2021 had increased to a maximum of five years in prison. This, of course, doesn’t apply to Thompson – who committed the offences mentioned above in 2020. It can, however, apply to the Avon Vale’s Alex Warden when he goes to court on 21 December.

  • The courts continue to show that foxes’ lives are worth absolutely nothing. It’s time that judges stepped up, stopped protecting their own, and handed out meaningful punishment to depraved hunters. Otherwise men like Thompson and Radbourne will never be stopped.



  • For more information on Recognising, Recording, and Reporting crimes against foxes see our Protectors of the Wild page Foxes and the Law.