“A man found with a collection of almost 200 eggs has been sentenced today at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court. Terrance Potter, 63, was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, for offences relating to the taking and possession of wild birds’ eggs.“
Just this past week we have written posts about multi-agency investigations into the poisoning and shooting of Common Buzzards and Red Kites (see – What do multi-agency searches for raptor poisoners tell us?), a horrific story of slaughtered badgers being left next to a public footpath (see – Badgers shot and left by footpath), the Wildlife and Countryside Link grouping of charities and organisations asking candidates in the upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections about their plans to tackle wildlife crime (see – PCC Elections | Wildlife and Countryside Link), and the launching of a new video about raptor persecution as part of a year-long campaign to tackle wildlife crime in Scotland (see – Operation Wingspan | Raptor Persecution)
All four posts (like so many on this website) state just how serious a problem wildlife crime in the UK is. And in post after post we state that current legislation (coupled with inadequate enforcement) is no deterrent at all to professional wildlife criminals. And here is yet another example…
The RSPB Investigations Team (who are quoted below) are incredibly hard-working individuals. They do a difficult job because they love birds and want to do what they can to protect them. How frustrating must it be to prosecute a serial egg thief like Terrance Potter, who was caught with hundreds of bird eggs from a number of different protected bird species, many targeted precisely because of their rarity, to see him given a laughable 12-week sentence suspended for 12 months and a paltry fine of £120 costs and £128 victim surcharge
A man who was convicted of egg theft in 2013, who had amassed another haul of eggs from species like Curlew (one of the fastest declining breeding species in the UK), is taken to court and ‘punished’ by the ‘risk’ of a jail sentence if he’s caught doing the same thing again within twelve months and a fine that he could pay off with a debit card. How on earth will that stop a kelptomaniac with zero respect for the law or for the birds he kills? He will be fuming that ‘his’ eggs were confiscated and will in all likelihood be working out how far along in the breeding season his target species will be by now so he can plan his assault on them afresh.
Eggs are not inert objects or commodities. Every stolen egg is a dead bird. A bird that was literally not allowed to be born. Serial shoplifters can be banned from shopping malls to protect the inanimate stuff for sale inside them. Why can’t an obsessive criminal like Potter not be banned from moorlands to protect sentient, living beings like birds? If the police see him in areas where rare birds are nesting they should be able to arrest him and his suspended sentence enforced.
In the press-release below the RSPB say that “We are pleased with today’s outcome, which sends a strong signal that such thoughtless destruction of wildlife, for personal gain, will not be tolerated“. Really? It’s encouraging that a multi-agency investigation (by South Yorkshire Police, the RSPB Investigations team and the Crown Prosecution Service) has resulted in an egg thief being convicted, but a suspended sentence and a fine in the low hundreds (which makes each egg ‘worth’ about £1.24) rather than the high thousands is hardly ‘pleasing’. It’s pathetic. Potter knew exactly what he was doing. The history of egg thieves suggests that he will do it again (see our post on serial thief Jeffrey Lundrum for example).
The RSPB know all of this of course and will be making the best of a situation that no doubt they would like to see improved. So here’s a suggestion: why don’t our wildlife charities explain the work that goes into investigations like this – the hours, the frustrations, the care with which evidence has to be collected – and explain clearly how sentencing like this does virtually nothing to take people like Potter out of commission for more than a few weeks let alone for good? Then ask their huge memberships to campaign for change, to lobby for proper punishment, to make sure that politicians understand that we want our wildlife protected from serial lawbreakers like Terrance Potter.
If we here at The War on Wildlife Project can help in any way with guest posts, interviews etc, please let us know…
A man found with a collection of almost 200 eggs has been sentenced today at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court. Terrance Potter, 63, was given a 12-week sentence, suspended for 12 months, for offences relating to the taking and possession of wild birds’ eggs.
Last April, during the first COVID-19 lockdown, local gamekeepers reported a man searching amongst the heather near the Woodhead Pass, near Holmfirth, where birds were known to be nesting. South Yorkshire Police tracked down Potter, a known individual, intercepting him on moorland within the Peak District National Park on 30 April 2020.
When police officers executed a search warrant at his home in Upper Cumberworth, assisted by the RSPB, they discovered a stash of nearly 200 eggs – including curlew, golden plover, black-headed gull and some overseas species – stored in cabinets, drawers, trays and plastic containers. The collection was seized, along with an egg-blowing kit and various equipment.
Potter had been convicted of egg collecting offences in 2013.
It is illegal to intentionally take or possess the eggs of any wild bird contrary to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The sentencing comes just days after World Curlew Day, which aims to raise awareness of the plight of this familiar countryside bird, whose long, curved bill and haunting, bubbling call is so evocative for so many. The UK is a crucial stronghold for breeding curlews, hosting around a quarter of the world’s population. Yet in the UK numbers have almost halved since the mid-1990s.
While searching Potter’s home, officers also discovered an incubator containing seven live eggs, including three curlew eggs. These were taken to bird-rearing specialists near Hull where three golden plover and one curlew chick hatched. Once the chicks were fully grown, they were released back into the wild.
The magistrate said they took a particularly dim view of Potter’s claim to be a wildlife expert, and that Potter ‘had not acted with wildlife’s best interests at heart.’
Tom Grose, RSPB Investigations Officer, said: “We are pleased with today’s outcome, which sends a strong signal that such thoughtless destruction of wildlife, for personal gain, will not be tolerated. Among Potter’s collection were seven curlew eggs – these are a declining, red-listed species which conservationists are working hard to bring back from the brink.
“Birds should be allowed to flourish in their natural environment, where they can be enjoyed by all. Thankfully, these days egg collecting is largely a thing of the past and court cases like this one are becoming increasingly rare. We are grateful to the individuals who reported this man’s suspicious behaviour, and to South Yorkshire Police for such a thorough investigation.”RSPB Investigations, Suspended sentence for egg collector, 23 April 21