North Yorkshire local councillor who published insensitive online comments about the suicide of a popular shooter must resign, says BASC

BASC has launched a campaign calling for the resignation of a Yorkshire local councillor after he posted insensitive and insulting comments online about the suicide of a popular and well-respected game butcher, shooter and family man.

Thomas Woodward, elected council member of Ryedale District Council and Pickering Town Council in North Yorkshire, commented on a link to an article about an inquest into the death of Allan Ellis posted on Facebook by the Hunt Saboteurs Association. Mr Woodward wrote: “Best use of a gun I can think of” and “We would all rather live in a world where no-one kills for fun. However, if you choose to own a gun and kill for pleasure, then it’s best you kill yourself”.

The post attracted a number of other comments in a similar vein, including “one scumbag less”, “he deserved it”, “he did the right thing” and “a true coward till the end”.

Not fit to hold public office

BASC’s chief executive Richard Ali said: “We are seeking the immediate resignation of this man from any elected office and a full apology to the family of Mr. Ellis for the distress he has caused. Mocking the suicide of anyone is absolutely unacceptable. Going further and stating that lawful gun owners should ‘kill themselves’ is despicable behaviour. This man is not fit to hold a public office.

“In a register of financial and other interests Councillor Woodward has declared himself to be a member of the League Against Cruel Sports and the Hunt Saboteurs Association. BASC is calling for the League Against Cruel Sports to distance itself from these comments from one of its members and to confirm they are a breach of the values of the organisation.”

Extremists who will stop at nothing

Mr Ali added: “We know from past actions that animal rights extremists will stop at nothing in their misguided hatred of anyone involved in lawful shooting activities. These facebook comments and attacks show their true colours and will be roundly condemned.”

BASC contacted Ryedale District Council and Pickering Town Council with details of Mr Woodward’s actions and asked them to take disciplinary action and distance themselves publicly from his comments.

A spokesperson for Ryedale District Council said of Mr Woodward’s comments: “The views expressed are personal comments and are not the views of Ryedale District Council.  Any formal complaints received will be dealt with by the Monitoring Officer under the appropriate complaints process.”

Mr Woodward spoke to local radio station, Minster FM, on 12 December. He confirmed that he still plans to stand in May’s town council elections and probably for Ryedale District Council, unless the Liberal Party decides otherwise. He accepted that some might have found his comments offensive but said they hadn’t been intended to cause any upset and that he hadn’t meant to imply that he thought Mr Allen’s death was a good thing.

Sadly missed

Mr Ellis, 50, shot in himself in August this year after learning that he faced legal proceedings over business debts totaling up to £40,000. Police were called to his home in Bacup, Lancashire, but were unable to prevent the former soldier taking his own life.

A former Scots Guard, Mr Ellis spent 13 years in the army, before being forced to return to civilian life following a serious injury in 1993. He was said to have had “a real passion for the countryside” and organised deer stalking, shooting events and sold game at markets and farmers markets.

Following his death, Allan’s family issued a statement, saying how well-respected he was locally and how much his shooting activities meant to him. They said: “Allan’s hobby was also his job, his life passion for the countryside, wildlife and its produce shone through in his work as a game dealer. Allan was popular, well-loved and well respected by everyone who met and knew him.

“Allan was a devoted family man to his wife and children and will sadly be missed by everyone who knew him.”