Man sentenced over 'abhorrent' animal abuse after attacking fox with garden fork

This video contains distressing images

Outside of the court, ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn asked Paul O'Shea if he was remorseful for his acts

Described as an “abhorrent” case of animal abuse, secret filming revealed Paul O’Shea capturing a fox with his terrier and using a garden fork to eventually remove it from the dog's jaws.

O’Shea was sentenced on Monday for hunting a wild mammal with dogs, under the Hunting Act, and causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal, under the Animal Welfare Act. Magistrates in Chelmsford told him he would be sent to prison for 18 weeks, however his sentence would be suspended for a year.

The attack on the fox last December in Pattiswick was prolonged. Experts said it was caused unnecessary suffering, mental fear and terror. O’Shea’s defence lawyer suggested the fork did not impale the animal but the Magistrates rejected the attempt to minimise the abuse.

North London Hunt Saboteurs planted the cameras that revealed O’Shea’s animal abuse. Spokesperson Philip Walters said: “We would have preferred a custodial sentence, but generally we're very pleased that it got this far in the first place.

"He didn't know those cameras were there. Had he have known , would he have behaved differently? When people don't realise they're being watched, they behave normally usually.”

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The Court heard that O’Shea held a role as a terrier man with the East Essex Hunt. They responded to his conviction today saying: “We fiercely condemn the actions of this individual who is no longer welcome to follow our hounds.

"The activities that were investigated took place on a non-hunting day and the person found guilty of these offences was not acting on behalf of any hunt. The East Essex Hunt has never employed the individual that has been sentenced.”

O’Shea’s crime was committed inside an Essex wood. He had no permission to be there. He claimed to be sorting out a problem fox by shooting it but no gun was seen, no animal body found.

PC Jed Raven from Essex Police Rural Engagement Team said: “Sadly, we don’t know exactly what happened to the fox as the film did not capture this. What is certain is that the fox would have been caused a great deal of physical pain and discomfort, as well as mental terror. This is simply not acceptable.”

O’Shea was also given 200 hours of community service and banned from keeping any dog for five years.