Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 14:07 UK

Alnwick auctioneer fined for selling eggs in cabinet

Bird eggs in cabinet up for auction
The cabinet contained more than 50 bird eggs

A Northumberland auctioneer has been fined £1,000 for trying to sell an Edwardian chest of drawers containing 100-year-old bird eggs.

Jim Railton, who said he had no idea he was breaking the law and claimed he would have only made £15 profit from the sale, has branded the fine "harsh".

The 57-year-old admitted at Alnwick Magistrates' Court one count of exposing for sale wild birds eggs.

The RSPB informed police after seeing the cabinet at his salesrooms.

Its owner, an NHS executive, approached Railton to sell the item of furniture in October at his Alnwick business.

Inside were 54 eggs from species including herring gull and guillemot.

After being alerted, police arrested and questioned the auctioneer, who had to give a DNA sample.

'Very harsh'

He had contravened the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act by offering the cabinet for sale because of the eggs inside.

The charge carries a maximum six-month jail term or up to a £5,000 fine for each item.

Jim Railton
Railton said he was expecting an "absolute discharge"

Outside court, he said: "It seems very harsh. I was expecting, and the general public was expecting, an absolute discharge."

He said he expected people to be "very surprised".

Chairman of the bench Terry Broughton said: "As an auctioneer you should have known, and ignorance of the law is never a defence.

"However, the eggs were of some antiquity and you did not seek to buy them yourself."

Railton, a former RSPB member, added: "I can sell a stuffed golden eagle but if that eagle happens to have an egg in the case with it, it is illegal."

He was also ordered to pay £70 costs and a £15 victim's surcharge.

The eggs will now be returned to the cabinet owner, who has since moved to Reading, Berkshire.



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