Lawyer who killed fox with baseball bat on Boxing Day won’t be prosecuted

The RSPCA has said it will not prosecute a prominent Remainer barrister who said he clubbed a fox to death following an investigation.

Jolyon Maugham sparked outrage after tweeting that he killed the animal at his Central London home on Boxing day.

Over 40,000 people signed a petition calling for the 48-year-old to be prosecuted.

At the time, the RSPCA said on Twitter that the incident was "distressing", after Twitter users tagged the animal welfare organisation in Mr Maugham's post.

But bosses at the charity have said they will not be taking further action following a post mortem.

In a statement, a spokeswoman said: "We have concluded our investigation into the incident that occurred on Boxing Day in which a fox was killed.

"We understand that this incident has caused distress to many people and we do not condone the killing of healthy foxes, so we want to explain how we have reached our decision.

"We conducted a thorough investigation, engaged independent experts, a veterinary pathologist and a forensic vet, and the prosecution department have carefully reviewed their findings.

"In all cases our prosecution decisions are made in accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors whereby the evidence has to meet the threshold for a realistic prospect of conviction. 

"When making prosecution decisions, we must be fair and objective and make them on the facts of each case. 

"It is important to understand that it is not necessarily illegal to kill a fox*, but if unnecessary suffering is caused, a criminal offence may have been committed.

"An independent post mortem and forensic veterinary assessment of the fox’s body was carried out and the findings indicate the fox was killed swiftly.

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"Therefore, in this case, the prosecutions department determined that the evidential threshold needed to take a prosecution under the CPS code was not met under any legislation relating to animals or wildlife.

"The RSPCA does not condone the killing of healthy foxes. The correct way to protect your livestock is with good fencing and deterrents.

"When a fox is tangled in fencing, it should be humanely freed wherever possible and RSPCA staff and other organisations do this regularly. The RSPCA or local authorities can provide information and advice to anyone on how to live alongside urban foxes."

The 48-year-old founder of the Good Law Project, which has legally challenged Brexit, said that the jokey tone of his tweets had been "wrong."

At the time, he had said that he was wearing his wife's "too small" satin kimono during the incident.

He tweeted: "This morning I've killed a fox with a baseball bat. How's your Boxing Day going?"

Asked why he had not called the RSPCA when he found the fox trapped, he said: "I didn't especially enjoy killing it but I imagine that's what the RSPCA would have done, if they had anyone on call in Central London on Boxing Day."

Mr Maugham later apologised and said he had contacted the RSPCA and left them his details.

In a post, he said: "Sorry to those upset by my tweet. My chickens were very distressed by the fox – both before and after I'd despatched it – and I wanted it out of the way quickly."

"I was slightly shocked by the whole tooth-and-claw experience when I tweeted and that was what I was trying to convey. But my tweet, one of a number about keeping chickens in urban London, should have conveyed that better.

"What's especially unfortunate is that I've already started to investigate the enormous harm done by factory farming, with a view to acting in that space in 2020. It would be a pity if my misguided tweets inhibited that. I'll try to do better."

Today, on Twitter, Mr Maugham said he "welcomed" the decision by the RSCPA.

He said: "I welcome the RSCPA decision, embedded in their press release, that there is no basis on which they can properly bring a private prosecution.

"I note what the RSCPA says about killing a fox. Their advice differs from the Government advice to householders which says one "must" – in other words you have no choice but to – humanely kill any fox caught on your property and that you "shouldn't release captured foxes."

"I know that some were genuinely upset by my actions on Boxing Day and the tone of my tweets.

"I am profoundly sorry for the upset. It was my intention to convey in a gently self-deprecating manner the incongruity of my Boxing Day morning. I got that wrong.

"As to my actions, in the situation which I found myself – needing to act in great haste to save the chicken my family keeps – I did not have the luxury of time to reflect on the competing ethical approaches of the RSCPA and Natural England.

"Of course, I respect the different assessments others might, equally reasonably, have made.

"I will continue the work I am doing to address factory farming and I expect to make an announcement in due course."

Government guidelines state that if a fox is caught in a trap or snare on a person's property, they must "humanely kill any fox you catch while it's in the trap or snare".

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