Highlands & Islands

Man who kept owl heads in jam jars fined

Gordon Taylor Image copyright PETER JOLLY NORTHPIX
Image caption Inverness Sheriff Court heard that Gordon Taylor was not responsible for the birds' deaths

Police found two barn owl heads in jam jars and a pendant made from a tawny owl foot during a raid on a man's Inverness home, a court has heard.

Gordon Taylor, who now lives in Midlothian, had sold artefacts and trinkets for white witches and shamans from the property.

The 46-year-old admitted possessing the specimens of the birds and keeping them for sale contrary to regulations.

He has been fined £750 at Inverness Sheriff Court.

Fiscal depute David Morton told Sheriff David Sutherland that Taylor faced either a fine or a maximum 12 months in prison for the offence.

He added that it was not suggested Taylor was responsible for the death of the birds.

'Serious matter'

In the raid, police also found bags containing feathers from owls and buzzards, as well as pendants made from birds of prey feathers.

Defence solicitor Clare Russell said Taylor had not known that he was breaking laws protecting endangered species by having the items.

She said: "My client's position is one of ignorance but it is no defence in law. He did not know about the required certificates to have these items.

"He is more than aware now of the legislation. He had purchased the various items to which he was not entitled and kept them for sale."

Sheriff Sutherland told Taylor he faced reduced charge from what he originally had, but added that it was still "a serious matter".

Image caption The bird body parts found at Taylor's home in 2015 included from a tawny owl

Police were alerted to a website Taylor used for selling items to people interested in paganism or shamanism, said the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service.

The items made from body parts from birds were found in a workshop inside a cupboard during the police search in November 2015.

Laura Buchan, assistant procurator fiscal, welcomed the fine, saying it sent out message to anyone else involved in similar illegal sales.

She said: "The existence of such a market drives persecution of these protected species.

"In addition the prosecution highlights to other commercial sellers that they need to understand the legislation and take seriously their obligations in respect of the international convention on the trade in endangered species of fauna and flora."

'Unusual case'

Police Scotland said bringing the case to court had followed a "complex inquiry" involving officers from the Highlands and Islands Wildlife Crime Unit in Inverness and also the National Wildlife Crime Unit.

PC Mark Banks, from the unit, said: "Although this is an unusual case for the Highlands, it is a reminder that the internet is an active arena for wildlife crime.

"The online sale of items taken from protected wildlife species will only encourage persecution of these animals.

"Anybody who has concerns about items they see for sale which they think may be prohibited or illegal wildlife activity reference on dedicated websites or social media should contact Police Scotland or Crimestoppers."

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