Breeder seeks birds’ return

"Breeder seeks birds’ return" A report published in the Yorkshire Post, British regional daily newspaper, on 6th June 2002.

A breeder of rare birds who was jailed for illegally importing some of the world’s most endangered species into Britain asked a judge yesterday to order the return of part of his collection, valued at £100,000.

Customs and Excise is seeking forfeiture of 144 birds, including three Lear macaws of which there are only 150 left in the world, which were seized in a raid on Harry Sissen’s home at Cornhill Farm, East Cowton, near Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in 1998.

Sissen, 63, was sentenced to 30 months in prison - later reduced to 18 months on appeal - after a jury found him guilty of smuggling the Lear macaws and six blue-headed macaws at a Newcastle Crown Court trial in April, 2000.

Judge Guy Whitburn QC later ordered him to hand over £150,000 proceeds of his criminal activities. Customs and Excise returned to Harrogate Magistrates Court yesterday to ask District Judge Ronnie Anderson to order the forfeiture of the 144 birds taken when the aviaries were raided - including the so-called "Brazil Three" - which have been kept at the taxpayers’ expense for four years.

Sissen, aided by his daughter, Yvonne Scales, is representing himself in proceedings, which are expected to take three days.

Customs and Excise barrister Simon Draycott QC told the judge that Britain signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1976.

Birds like the Lear macaws, which are threatened with extinction, are on the Schedule A list which means commercial trade is prohibited. Many of Sissen’s birds were species from Australia which has a total ban on the export of live fauna and flora.

Mr Draycott told Judge Anderson that the Lear and blue-headed macaws should be forfeited because they had been the subject of the criminal conviction, but the law also allowed for the forfeiture of all the seized birds if it could be shown they had been used as a cover for any imported illegally. Sissen had failed to keep accurate breeding records for the birds in his aviaries, he added.

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 " Naturam expellas furca, tamen usque recurret "

( If you drive out nature with a pitchfork, she will soon find a way back)

Horace (65-8 BC)