A 24 year old taxidermy dealer has been jailed today (7th December 2015) for a total of 24 weeks at Burnley Crown Court. Aaron William Halstead of Glen View Road, Burnley was sentenced to 4 consecutive sentences of 6 weeks (total 24 weeks) for 4 offences contrary to the Control in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997.
Halstead first came to the attention of the Police and National Wildlife Crime Unit in 2011 when he was found to be trading illegally in Annex ‘A’ species, which are species that receive the highest level of protection. Such species can only be used commercially if they are covered by a permit commonly known as an Article 10 Certificate or they are classed as antique, which means they must be ‘worked’ and that working took place prior to 1947. In 2011 Halstead was found to be selling modern taxidermy specimens of Annex ‘A’ birds, including Goshawk, Barn owl and Tawny owl without permits. Officers from the NWCU and Lancashire Police executed a search warrant at his home address, where officers discovered numerous stuffed birds, which did not have permits. Halstead was arrested and admitted that he had been offering specimens for sale without permits. On this occasion Halstead, who had never previously come to the attention of the Police, was given the benefit of a Police caution. Additionally, he was given extensive advice on the law relating to the trade by an officer from the NWCU. Halstead was left in no doubt as to what was required to trade legally in endangered species.
HALSTEAD continued to trade on the internet in taxidermy and actually set up a business, HALSTEAD TAXIDERMY LTD, of which he was the sole director. In September 2014 officers from the NWCU received intelligence suggesting that Halstead may be trading illegally and as a result they monitored both his company website and his trade on Ebay. Officers identified what appeared to be breaches in the trade regulations and as a result a search warrant was executed at his home address by Wildlife Crime Officers from Lancashire Police and the NWCU. Officers seized documentation and specimens including, a Jaguar skull, sperm whale teeth, four Leopard skins and two Snowy owls.
Analysis of the documentation and subsequent enquiries resulted in Halstead being charged with offences relating to the prohibited offering for sale of a Leopard skull and a Snowy owl, plus the prohibited purchase of four Leopard skins, three Sperm whale teeth and a Cheetah skull; none of the specimens were covered by valid Article 10 Certificates.
Halstead appeared at Burnley Crown on 6th November 2015 when he pleaded guilty to 4 charges relating to the prohibited offering for sale a Snowy owl and the prohibited purchase of three Sperm whale teeth, a Cheetah skull and a Dolphin skull. Halstead entered not guilty pleas to the charges relating to the Leopard skins and skull, these charges were ordered to lie on the file.
Sentencing Halstead, Her Honour Judge Beverly Lunt told Halstead that he was undermining the efforts of people around the world who were working to protect endangered species. She told him that he was feeding a demand and that without people like him there would be no trade for profit and animals would not be poached.
Halstead was told by Judge Lunt that the maximum sentence was 5 years and he was receiving the maximum possible discount, but the courts needed to send out a message that these crimes would not be tolerated and an immediate custodial sentence could not be avoided.
She made a forfeiture order for specimens subject of the charges and in addition she ordered the forfeiture of four Leopard skins.
Following the court hearing Andy McWilliam from the National Wildlife Crime Unit said, “The species involved in this case receive the highest level of protection, Mr. Halstead is a professional dealer and he acknowledged that he was well aware of the legal requirements. He chose to ignore or turn a blind eye to the regulations. This demonstrates how seriously the courts take these offences and others who chose to trade illegally and profit from endangered species should take note of this sentence; prison is a real possibility”.