Alleged saboteurs to face trial over Lacock Boxing Day clash with pro-hunting groups

Anonymous boxing day hunt
The annual Avon Vale Boxing Day Hunt took place on 27 December 2021. Credit: PA

Two alleged anti-hunt protesters accused of getting into a scuffle with a pro-hunting group will stand trial in September.

Tensions rose outside the Red Lion pub in Lacock as anti-hunting groups arrived before the annual Avon Vale Boxing Day Hunt on 27 December 2021 - a day later than usual because Boxing Day fell on a Sunday.

Andrew Purbrick, 59, from Westbury, and Adrian Earl, 52, of Calne, are charged with using threatening or abusive words or behaviour with intent to cause fear of violence.

The pair deny any wrongdoing but prosecutor Tom Power told Swindon Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday 13 April they are accused of becoming involved in the “melee” and “general pushing and scuffling” between the different factions.

Earl is further accused of smashing a mobile phone out of someone’s hand “who was simply standing there minding their own business”.

The clash happened outside the Red Lion pub in Lacock near Chippenham. Credit: Google

Lydia Dagostino, solicitor for Earl and Purbrick, said: “Mr Earl is not part of any support group, either pro or anti-hunt, he had simply dropped his wife off and found himself in the melee.”

At Wednesday’s hearing, Ms Dagostino said Earl suffered a significant assault and was a victim in the incident.

She said Purbrick had been protesting peacefully against the hunt with other demonstrators when they were deliberately targeted by hunt supporters who had been drinking.

Ms Dagostino said the issues in the case were self-defence and defence of others.

She asked for the case to be listed in front of a district judge rather than lay magistrates in light of questions of law being raised by a number of cases involving the right to protest, describing it as “a fast-moving and rapidly changing area”.

The solicitor cited the case of four people acquitted of criminal damage for pulling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, which has been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Attorney General.

Among other issues, Suella Braverman is seeking a clarification on when someone can employ a defence of human rights in a case of criminal damage.

Earl and Purbrick’s trial was listed for September 29 at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, with a case management hearing on June 8. They were granted unconditional bail.

Wiltshire Police came under fire for their handling of the hunt meet.

Officers have been accused of not intervening to prevent the violence, while some saboteurs have claimed one of the officers is a full member of the hunt.

The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) said it has referred 10 complaints to Wiltshire Police’s professional standards department to be investigated further.