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Friday, 7 September, 2001, 14:23 GMT 15:23 UK
New law snares egg collector
Barry Sheavils
Sheavils showed no remorse for his crimes
A serial wild birds' egg collector has become the first person in the UK to be jailed under new legislation to protect wildlife.

Barry Sheavils, from Blyth, Northumberland, was sent to prison on Friday for four months by magistrates who were told his hobby was damaging the country's bird population.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which amended the Wildlife and Countryside Act, allows courts to impose a jail sentence of up to six months.

In August, Sheavils admitted possessing three goshawk eggs, four goosander eggs, and possessing, with intent to commit an offence, a tin with compartments for eggs.

Egg collecting at the level we are talking about here involves targeting the country's very rarest breeding species

Keith Morton, RSPB
South East Northumberland Magistrates heard Sheavils' home in Ogle Drive, Blyth, was raided in June.

The search came less than a month after he was convicted of possessing more than 1,200 rare birds eggs, for which he was fined 1,000 and ordered to pay 500 costs.

Magistrates said then that they would have considered jailing the 41-year-old father of two if they could have done so.

They were prevented from doing so as the offences were committed before January this year, when the new provisions came into force.

'Obsessive' collector

In the June raid, officers found Sheavils had three rare goshawk eggs, and later discovered four goosander eggs and some class B drug amphetamine sulphate in a bin.

Sheavils admitted possessing the eggs, saying he was given them by a fellow collector after he forfeited his collection to the Royal Museum in Scotland following the June trial.

Sheavils said he used the illegal drug for his "egging" to help him climb hills to find nests.

On Friday, the court was told Sheavils had convictions for egg collecting dating back to 1987.

They included possessing peregrine and osprey eggs and attempting to take golden eagle eggs in Scotland.

Rare Bird
Many rare breeds are targeted
Prosecutor Jonathan Moore said: "Barry Sheavils and his associates are a real threat to the rarest breeding species, and therefore Britain's rich and varied natural history."

Alan Brown, defending, appealed to the bench to order his "obsessive" client to receive rehabilitation.

But magistrates jailed Sheavils for three months for possessing the goshawk eggs and a further month for possessing the four goosander eggs, to be served consecutively.

Chairman of the bench John Turner told Sheavils: "These offences have a serious impact on the rarest species of birds.

"The offences took place days after you appeared in court for similar offences and you appear to have shown no remorse."

Sheavils was ordered to forfeit his eggs and the tin.

'Real threat'

After the case Keith Morton, of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds(RSPB) said: "I am certainly pleased the magistrates are willing to use the powers they now have, in this case in very appropriate circumstances.

"Mr Sheavils is the first person to be jailed for this offence.

"He has repeatedly, cynically offended and displayed a complete contempt for the law and the sentence today was an inevitable conclusion to his behaviour.

"He is among the most active group of egg collectors in Britain.

"Egg collecting at the level we are talking about here involves targeting the country's very rarest breeding species.

"It consequently represents a real threat to some of them - the rarer the breed, the more attractive and vulnerable it is to egg collecting."

See also:

30 May 01 | UK
Cameras prey on rare birds
09 Oct 00 | Sci/Tech
Call to jail bird persecutors
20 Sep 99 | UK
Bird crimes on the increase
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