Smuggler fails in court bid to reclaim birds

" Smuggler fails in court bid to reclaim birds ". A report in the Northern Echo, a British regional daily newspaper, dated 10th July 2004

A parrot breeder who has served a jail term for smuggling rare macaws into Britain has failed in a High Court bid to get back 39 of his beloved birds.

Harry Sissen, 65, of Cornhill Farm, East Cowton, Northallerton, claimed Customs and Excise’s seizure of the rare birds was disproportionate - and urged Mr Justice Newman to hand them back.

But the judge dashed Mr Sissen’s chances of seeing the birds again - saying his 2001 conviction counted against him and the "public interest" lay in protecting endangered species.

Mr Sissen received a two-and-a-half-year jail term in 2001 after he was found guilty of smuggling three extremely rare Lear’s Macaws and six Blue-Headed Macaws into the UK.

The sentence was later cut to 18 months on appeal, but he was also hit with a £150,000 confiscation order.

In April last year, Newcastle Crown Court ordered 100 of Mr Sissen’s birds be forfeited to Customs and Excise. Since then, 61 of the birds have died of a virus but Mr Sissen battled for the return of the surviving 39.

The Crown Court judge said it was "more likely than not" that at least some of the siezed birds had been unlawfully smuggled into the country.

And, as birds legitimately bred by Mr Sissen had been "mixed, packed or found" with the illegally-imported birds, the judge ruled all of them could be taken away.

Simon Farrell QC, for Mr Sissen, argued the decision to take all the birds away was disproportionate and violated his human rights.

However, dismissing the judicial review challenge, Mr Justice Newman said Mr Sissen’s smuggling conviction related to an international operation to import endangered species into the UK.

He added: "Mr Sissen is a man about which positive things can be said - but he has been carried away by an unwavering sense of knowing best. This was not the first occasion on which he had indulged in such illegal importation and was part of a professional importation."

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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)