alex warden avon vale

TRIAL DATE FIXED: Avon Vale terrierman to face jury

A trial date has been set for notorious Avon Vale terrierman Alex Warden. He will go to trial in Salisbury Crown Court on 21 December 2023. He is complicit in hounds tearing apart one fox, and chasing another.

The Avon Vale Hunt made national headlines when a video was passed onto the Hunt Saboteurs Association and made public in February 2023. The footage, broadcast on ITV News, shows three men leaning into a freshly-dug hole. Warden pulls a terrier out. Another man (whipper-in Aaron Fookes) pulls out a fox then drops her into the pack of hounds to tear apart. A second fox then escapes from a hole, and some of the dogs chase her. The person filming shouts: “Brace! There’s a brace!” (a ‘brace’ refers to two foxes), while hunt staff laugh.

Two of the men – Fookes, along with Stuart Radbourne, who was hunt master – have already pleaded guilty to the incident. They were charged with illegal hunting, and Fookes also pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal (i.e. an animal under his control).

Jury trial

Warden, meanwhile, was also charged with hunting a wild animal with dogs, along with causing unnecessary suffering to an animal. But he seems certain that he can charm the public, and has opted for a jury trial. It is also possible that he has been advised by his solicitor that the footage against him isn’t damning enough. But the video clearly shows Warden retrieving his terrier from the hole.

Wiltshire Hunt Saboteurs previously wrote on Facebook:

“Alex [Warden] can be seen in the blue jumper [in the video]… he put one of his many terriers into the badger sett in order to locate the hunted fox, just before convicted wildlife criminal Aaron Fookes pulled the animal out to throw to the hounds. At some point during that fateful day of the 20th December 2022, he felt proud enough of his actions to post and tag a photo of himself with the AVH close to the scene of the crime.”

As Protect the Wild has previously explained, a hunt should never need terriermen if it is going about legal trail hunting (that is, following an artificially-laid scent). Terriermen such as Warden are used by hunts to illegally dig/flush out foxes that have gone underground to find safety, or to illegally block up fox dens and badger sett holes to ensure foxes can’t go underground.


avon vale dig out foxes
Alex Warden reaches into the hole to pull out a terrier. Screenshot via ITV News

All eyes on this trial

As far as Protect the Wild knows, this will be the first hunting trial to be tried in front of a jury. The Sentencing Council recently published new guidelines for judges who are sentencing people found guilty of causing unnecessary suffering to an animal under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. The new animal cruelty guidelines increased the maximum penalty from six months to five years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. This change in sentencing guidelines might have been why Fookes pleaded guilty to the offence: judges are more lenient when sentencing someone who has pleaded guilty.

Warden has been granted bail, but isn’t allowed to ‘trail’ hunt in the county of Wiltshire where the Avon Vale was based. There’s nothing to stop him from hunting in other parts of the country between now and his trial.

It remains to be seen whether Warden can worm his way out of a conviction, but all eyes will be on this important trial.

Featured images via ITV News/Screenshot