Judge’s warning to breeders as Fenland man is found guilty of caging wild birds after four-day trial

A JUDGE warned last night that bird breeders who exchange or sell birds with a “no questions asked” attitude could face heavy penalties or even a prison sentence.

The warning by district judge Philip Browning came after he found Fenland bird breeder Edward William Easter guilty of 13 wild bird charges and ordered him to pay almost �20,000 in fines and court costs.

Easter, 71, of Hollycroft Road, Emneth, was convicted of 13 charges under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 relating to the possession of wild birds and possession with the intent to sell.

Easter had denied the charges and his trial lasted four days at King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court.

The charges related to two visits to the 71-year-old’s home by the RSPCA in 2009 and 2010 which saw officers seize birds believing they were wild.

Sentencing Easter, judge Browning said: “It’s illegal to trade in wild birds and it needs to be understood by breeders that to do this carries heavy penalties or even a prison sentence.

“I hope the message has been made clear that those engaging in the exchanging and selling of birds with no questions asked do so at their peril.”

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Judge Browning said Easter was an able bird breeder, highly respected in the bird breeding world and had no evidence to suggest he had taken birds or eggs from the wild.

But he said Easter’s method of telling wild and captive birds apart by their behaviour and plumage was “not conclusive”.

He also spoke of his concern at how Easter knew so much about how long certain wild birds take to settle into captivity. Giving evidence during the trial, Easter had stated it would “normally” take goldfinches three to four months to settle into captivity.

Judge Browning said: “You were well aware of the legislation following a caution for not providing documentary evidence when selling three wild robins in 2005.

“I find it remarkable that even after this caution, you did continued not to comply with the requirements.”

During the trial the court had heard Easter began keeping birds 40 years ago and is a member of the British Bird Council.

The former school teacher accused the RSPCA of “intimidating” bird breeders across the country but admitted he did not have documentary evidence to prove his birds were captive.

Easter was fined a total of �9,750 (�750 for each offence) and ordered to pay �10,000 in costs. The court also ordered Easter to forfeit all of the birds subject to the charges, as well as their subsequent offspring.

RSPCA inspector Carroll Lamport said: “This is the end of a very long and demanding investigation, but it sends a clear and strong message to those people who think they can get away with keeping birds that can’t be proven to have been bred in captivity.

“It is extremely cruel to put wild birds in such an unnatural environment. The birds are unable to migrate because they are confined and many of them die long before their natural time.

“The trade in wild birds remains a closed ring, with those involved keeping the birds for their own purposes rather than in the interests of animal welfare. We know this practice remains rife and we will continue to prosecute those who fail to prove their birds have been legally bred in captivity.”

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