Parrot fanatic’s birds are returned

"Parrot fanatic’s birds are returned". A report by Kate Bowman in the Northern Echo, a British regional daily newspaper on Friday, 22nd November 2002

Parrot fanatic Harry Sissen, who was convicted two years ago of smuggling rare breeds into the country, has been told he can have some of his birds back.

Leaving Richmond Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Mr Sissen vowed to continue his fight to have all his birds, confiscated in raids by Customs and Excise officers, returned.

Five years ago, Mr Sissen’s home at Cornhill Farm, East Cowton, near Northallerton, was raided and 144 macaws, cockatoos and parrots were seized.

He was later jailed for 30 months for smuggling - but the sentence was cut to 18 months on appeal.

A condemnation order was put on his collection, with the birds all being taken to zoos and specialist gardens across the country, but he also appealed against it.

At yesterday’s civil hearing, Mr Sissen recovered about 70 of the birds when it was ruled that there was insufficient evidence to prove they had been illegally imported.

District Judge Roy Anderson said Mr Sissen’s involvement with the birds was an obsession that transcended the ordinary.

He described him as a person concerned with the welfare of the endangered species but also as "a person prepared to break the law. He has a Jekyll and Hyde character and the orders reflect that".

In court, Mr Sissen thanked Judge Anderson for returning some of his collection. He said: "I know this hasn’t been easy and you have tried very hard. I appreciate all you have done to help."

However, he had earlier condemned the raids carried out by Customs and Excise. He said: "If they had made proper inquiries before they raided, then none of this would have happened."

As he left the court, Mr Sissen said he was determined to have all his birds returned, including three Lear macaws of which there are thought to be only 250 left in the world.

He said: "The fight will go on. I am the best breeder in Europe and when you believe in something then you fight for it."

A spokesman for Customs and Excise said: "We accept the ruling and will make arrangements to return the birds to Mr Sissen. All those that have been ruled liable to confiscate will be found suitable homes."

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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)