Collecting Birds Eggs part one…

The UK and Welsh governments are thinking of repealing a law made in 2004, about the proof needed for wild bird egg collections…

They say anyone able to prove their eggs were taken from the wild before 1981 should not be prosecuted, after the law was changed in 2004 to require proof that eggs were taken before 1954…Confused ? read on…

This has now been ruled unlawful because of a lack of consultation, ministers say reinstating the so-called “pre-1981 defence” against liability would be a proportionate step, whilst officials said “clarifying” the law in England and Wales would have the effect of focusing resources on prosecuting those currently collecting and trading eggs rather than punishing people who have built up or inherited historical collections…
The move, it is hoped, will encourage those with collections of scientific value to hand them over to museums for research, although the practice of collecting wild bird eggs is in decline, the two governments’ joint consultation found that illegal activity was still going on and there was a need for legislation outlawing it – which first came into force in 1981, and this is a proposal for it to remain on the statute book.

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Photo supplied by Pixabay

 

“Burden of proof”

The majority of those who responded to a consultation carried out by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs called for the so-called pre-1981 defence – which takes its name from the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act – to be reinstated.
When the Act was passed, it was specified that no-one would be prosecuted who could establish that their eggs were taken from the wild before the legislation came into force.

Defra accepted in 2011, that the current regulations were introduced unlawfully
However, this was superseded in 2004 when the law was changed to make eggs taken after the passage of the 1954 Protection of Birds Act the “burden of proof” for criminal liability, critics of the move argue this has had the effect of retrospectively criminalising anyone who collected bird eggs legally between 1954 and 1981.
The regulations were approved by Parliament in 2004 via a statutory instrument, without a full debate, and were designed to bring the UK into line with an EU directive on the definition of wild birds., but they were later deemed unlawful because the public had not been properly consulted on the issue of removing the pre… 1981 exemption.
in some cases the wild birds do need tobe protected from people who trade in wild birds eggs, as in the case, John Dodsworth’s 2009 conviction for the illegal possession of nearly 1,000 wild bird eggs was quashed by the High Court in 2012 on the grounds that the 1981 pre-defence had been “effectively removed without consultation”.
Lawyers for Mr Dodsworth, who had previous convictions for wildlife offences, argued he could not have known he was breaking the law by being in possession of a collection of eggs assembled by others over decades and given to him before 2004,
They also warned the law as it stood had major implications for museums and other holders of potentially valuable collections, although wild bird egg collecting is not as prolific as it was, the law has to be changed back, to become lawful… if that makes any sense…

barn owl perched on tree

Defra has now concluded there would be no significant benefit to wildlife conservation in maintaining the existing regulations, and by reverting the law back to the 1981 pre-defence, the department says it would ensure the UK complied with EU laws while making it more likely valuable collections were preserved and not disposed of in a hasty fashion, in other words people where destroying legally aquired collections, but you must not, like metal detecting and collection of artefacts, they want you to give up your collection to them, why? … its like a lot of bully boy tactics… we want it so give it over, only they consider it legal…

As spoken in Defra,s own words … “Reinstating the pre-1981 defence is a proportionate response to, what is now, a declining activity,”
In reaching its decision, the UK and Welsh governments noted that there was no knowledgeable or forensic method to authenticate the age of eggs, or to determine the legality of individual collections….
The RSPB said egg collecting had been “on the wane” since tougher penalties, including the risk of jail sentences, were introduced in 2001 but still poses a serious threat, to the wildlife,  with the charity, being just one of 16 organisations , which includes the police forces and museums, and other private individuals, that responded to a consultation, everyone said that the 1981 law had been full of “loopholes” A good example of a major loophole, states “it is illegal to” –  “posses unlawfully killed” or “birds that had been taken, for whatever purpose” but nowhere did it mention it was not illegal to take the eggs of wild bird’s ?… work that out !

the animal welfare charity said it would have preferred the 2004 regulations to stay in place as part of the “legislative armoury” against offenders, so basically if you have inherited an egg collection, great you can keep it, but do not go and take eggs from the wild, as from now, – this to me, just sums up an incompetent quango, a job for the boys… people are more sensible then these stupid governments give us credit for…Illegal trade in birds eggs have all ways been done by word of mouth, its up to the rangers, and wild life workers to monitor what goes on, it is part of their job and knowledge base…so what is the outcome…

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