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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
No trial in mushroom 'theft' case
A mushroom picker will not stand trial for picking edible fungi in a national park, a judge has ruled.

Brigitte Tee-Hillman, 64, from Pennington, Hampshire, was accused of stealing wild mushrooms in the New Forest on 15 November 2002.

The dropping of the case was hailed as a "victory for common sense" by Mrs Tee-Hillman's solicitor.

Judge John Boggis QC said criminal proceedings were "wholly inappropriate" in what should have been a civil case.

'Highly delighted'

He said: "What lies at the heart of this is whether the right exists in her favour.

"These criminal proceedings are wholly inappropriate to a matter of this sort.

"I am not dealing with someone up for GBH, or someone dealing in heroin, I'm dealing with a matter which falls for the civil courts.

"It is wholly inappropriate for public money to be spent on criminal proceedings such as this."

Mrs Tee-Hillman's solicitor, Clive Sutton, said: "It's a victory for common sense - the fact that the judge has said the Forestry Commission should have just sued her."

Mrs Tee-Hillman, who runs Mrs Tee's Wild Mushrooms shop in Lymington, said: "I'm highly delighted but I did not expect anything else.

Civil proceedings

"It should have never been brought in the first place. It was a complete waste of public money and our money."

The case will now go to a full civil court trial later this year where Mrs Tee-Hillman will have to prove that she has a right to pick the fungi.

Mr Sutton said: "If you have been picking something for 20 years, which she has, then you have the right under customary law to do so. That is the basis of her civil case."

Mrs Tee-Hillman was arrested in November 2002 and 27 worth of brown chanterelles were confiscated after she was informed in September 2001 by the Forestry Commission that picking fungi for commercial purposes was illegal.




SEE ALSO:
Mushroom picker fights forest ban
21 Feb 06 |  Hampshire


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