Catherine Emberton 29yrs, of Gleadless Road, Sheffield appeared at Sheffield Crown Court today (30/03/2015) where she was sentenced for offences under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 relating to the illegal trade in tiger claws and teeth. Ms. Emberton had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.
The conviction was the result of a joint investigation by South Yorkshire Police and the National Wildlife Crime Unit.
In May 2014 officers identified Ms. Emberton who was trading in jewellery on the internet auction site Ebay, a significant part of her trade appeared to consist of jewellery containing tiger teeth and claws, which she was shipping around the globe.
Tiger is critically endangered and is classed as an Annex ‘A’ species, which means that any sale or commercial use of the species and any of its derivatives is strictly prohibited unless it is covered by a Government issues permit.
The law allows for the sale of antiques, which are classed as ‘worked’. To be exempt under the ‘worked’ derogation, an item must be carved or significantly altered from its raw state before 1947.
Most of her adverts carried a rider suggesting these were antique and worked and exempt form any requirement for permits.
However, the items being sold and offered for sale by Ms. Emberton did not qualify for this exemption. Most of the items she was selling were raw teeth or claws set in metal.
On 9th June 2014 officers from NWCU and South Yorkshire Police executed a search warrant at Ms. Emberton’s home address. During the search officer found a silversmith’s work bench, jewellery making equipment, claws and teeth set in silver, 23 x raw claws and 10 x raw teeth.
Ms. Emberton was arrested and later charged with the prohibited sale, prohibited offering for sale and prohibited keeping for sale and Annex ‘A’ Species, namely tiger, contrary to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997. The charges related to multiple sales (129) over an 18 months period and her possession of teeth and claws for sale on the day of the warrant.
Although Ms. Emberton accepted that the teeth and claws she was selling did not meet the worked derogation, she maintained that it was her opinion that they were old. However, an expert in this field provided evidence that without radio-carbon dating or a truly accurate provenance, “it is impossible to age the teeth or claws”.
Catherine Emberton was sentenced to 120hrs of unpaid work, a 12 month Community Service Order as well as being ordered to pay £60 victim surcharge and forfeiture of items seized.
Following the case investigating officer Andy McWilliam from the National Wildlife Crime Unit said, “Any person who chooses to trade in endangered species has a duty to know and comply with the law. The regulations are not an optional extra; they are there to protect species that are at risk. Some species, such as tiger are on the brink of extinction. People who offend run the risk of going to prison”.
The maximum sentence for these offences is 5 years.