Jailed breeder’s hunger protest

" Jailed breeder’s hunger protest ". A report in the Northern Echo, a British regional daily newspaper, dated 2nd October 2004

A bird breeder threatened to go on hunger strike yesterday after being jailed for failing to pay a £150,000 court order.

Harry Sissen, 66, was sent to prison for 21 months by Northallerton magistrates. As he was led from the court in handcuffs he threw a glass of water over James Fletcher, who had prosecuted the case on behalf of HM Customs and Excise.

During the two-hour hearing, Sissen repeatedly protested his innocence and insisted that he was not able to pay the amount. Sissen, of Cornhill Farm, East Cowton, near Northallerton, has already spent eight months behind bars after a court found him guilty of smuggling rare macaws in 2000. In July, he was ordered to sell land to pay a £150,000 confiscation order or face a further 21 months in jail.

Yesterday, Sissen said it was not within his power to sell the land. "I cannot sell a square inch of land without my sisters’ agreeing to it," he said. "It is completely out of my hands. They know the position I am in. They made a promise to my father that they would never ever sell the farm. "I have been through hell over this. All I have done is breed a few birds. If I go back to prison, I am going to go on hunger strike. I am going to get publicity."

In April last year, Newcastle Crown Court ordered 140 of Sissen’s birds to be seized by Customs and Excise officers. Since then, more than 60 of the birds have died.

Mr Fletcher, prosecuting, said: "It is a fact that he has assets available to pay the order. At the original hearing he was given nine months to pay the order precisely because it would be difficult to realise the assets of the partnership.

"Just because assets are difficult to realise, it doesn’t mean that they are not recoverable." Announcing their decision, chairman of the bench Muriel Blythman said: "It is worrying that Mr Sissen has indicated his decision to go on a hunger strike if sent to prison. We also know that he is a man of advancing years who is clearly adamant of his innocence.

"However, we do not feel that these issues should interfere with the interests of justice."

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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)