By | 01/10/2009 0 comments


A BIRD expert appealed against a suspended prison sentence for illegally keeping some of the UK's rarest wild birds—and found himself locked up instead.
Sean Fitzpatrick (42), a former chairman and an honorary life vice-president of the National Council for Aviculture, was given the 16-week sentence in July after admitting having 20 live red-backed shrikes and three stonechats at his home on Brunt Road, Rawmarsh.
He launched an appeal against the punishment, which also included a curfew between 9pm and 6am and an order for £750 costs.
But that appeal was dismissed last Friday at Sheffield Crown Court, where Judge Robert Moore scrapped the suspended sentence and imposed an eight-week prison term in its place.
Fitzpatrick was this week beginning his spell in jail as campaigners against animal cruelty welcomed his sentence as sending out a strong message.
At last Friday's hearing, Judge Moore reminded Mr Fitzpatrick's barrister, Mr Kevin Jones, that in all appeals sentencing can increase, remain the same or decrease and asked if his client was fully aware of the implications of that.
Mr Jones said that he was and still wanted to appeal.
Judge Moore concluded that the offences were very serious and that a man in Mr Fitzpatrick's position should have known exactly what the law said regarding the keeping of birds.
The judge said that a jail sentence was the most appropriate punishment and Fitzpatrick was taken down.
RSPCA inspector Cliff Harrison said: "I've been investigating wild bird crime for the last 11 years and it's an awful trade.
"Many of the birds die an absolutely awful death.
"Mr Fitzpatrick is a senior figure in aviculture circles and we hope this sends a clear message to those that choose to acquire and sell on birds."
Fitzpatrick was first brought before a court after officers from the RSPCA, the National Wildlife Crime Unit and Defra visited Fitzpatrick's home on July 17 last year following a report that he was in possession of red-backed shrikes.
The information also suggested that Fitzpatrick had been involved in the sale of some of the rare birds.
A total of eight juvenile red-backed shrikes were examined, along with three stonechats.
The birds were all fitted with British Bird Council (BBC) rings but the only paperwork supplied with them was declared as falsified by the Belgian authorities, which said the documents had actually been 'issued' by a ministry that ceased functioning in 2003.
Fitzpatrick initially claimed he had purchased 12 red-backed shrikes from two unknown Belgian men, who spoke broken English, at a bird show in Stafford in 2007.
He said he sold some for £70 and gave others to breeders as gifts.
However, his story was contradicted by an ex-pat living in France who initially stated that he had met Fitzpatrick at Calais to hand over the shrikes then stated in court that he had handed them to Fitzpatrick at Stafford.
Fitzpatrick admitted a total of five charges brought by the RSPCA, including two separate charges of selling four red-backed shrikes in November 2007 and three of possessing live wild birds between September 2007 and July last year, contrary to the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981.

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