A SOMERSET man has been sentenced for his part in digging up a fox and throwing it to a pack of hounds.

Aaron Fookes, 29, had previously pleaded guilty to fox hunting and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal after a leaked video came to light.

Whipper-in Fookes, of Townsend Green, Henstridge, along with hunt master Stuart Radbourne, 39, who admitted the first charge, appeared at Swindon Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Wednesday, July 5).

Both men were previously members of the banned Avon Vale Hunt.

Prosecutor Patrick Schneider said the pair had been hunting in Brokerswood, Wiltshire, when video footage – which was later leaked to anti-hunt activists – was taken of them.

The footage, taken on December 20 last year, showed Fookes kneeling down over the entrance of a badger sett with his arms down into it, pulling out a live fox.

Chard & Ilminster News:

Radbourne is heard making whooping noises before the fox is chucked to a large pack of hounds and killed.

Solicitor Sam Harkness, representing both men, said that press coverage of the incident had “utterly destroyed the lives of the defendants”.

They were both left jobless, with Fookes leaving the county due to threats made against him.

The court was told that Radbourne has a previous conviction for interfering with a badger sett, for which he was fined £300 at Chippenham Magistrates’ Court in 2013.

Fookes now works as an agricultural contractor earning around £2,000 per month, while Radbourne is struggling with “significant debts” and earning £1,000 a month as a farmer and equestrian.

Fookes was handed an 18-month community order for the animal cruelty matter.

He must complete 200 hours of unpaid work. For the fox hunting offence, he was fined £833 and must pay £42.50 costs and a £330 victim surcharge.

Radbourne, of The Common, Bromham, was fined £384 and told to pay £42.50 costs and a £154 surcharge.

In February, after footage of this incident was circulated on social media, the Hound Sports Regulatory Authority (HSRA) panel barred the Avon Vale Hunt, meaning the group could no longer operate.

It found that “on the balance of probabilities the evidence revealed serious breaches of the core principles and rules”.

As a result, the authority permanently expelled the hunt and its masters, huntsman and kennel huntsman from membership.