Sentence for man who kept a wild goldfinch

Cinque Ports Motor Company

A man caught with a goldfinch which had been illegally taken from the wild has been ordered to pay £250.

George Johnston, of Sandhurst Road, appeared at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on November 18.

The 32-year-old had previously pleaded guilty to being in possession of a wild bird.

The RSPCA, which brought the prosecution against Johnston, said it ‘is not known how he came to be in possession of this bird’ but that an expert confirmed it had been taken illegally from the wild.

The defendant said he had bought the gold-finch ‘in good faith’ and had ‘not known it was wild’.

He forfeited the bird and was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £250 costs.

An RSPCA spokesman said: “The RSPCA has serious concerns about the illegal practice of wild bird trapping.

“Songbirds targeted by this crime include some species which are already in sharp decline because of loss of habitat and other factors.

“We rely heavily on people reporting sightings of traps and nets to us, or finding a bird for sale without a ring, or with a tampered ring, around its legs – a sign it is likely to have been caught illegally.

“Birds are being taken from under our eyes so we need people to keep a beady eye out and report any-thing suspicious to our 24-hour emergency line on 0300 1234 999.”

In the 19th century, goldfinches were often cap-tured and kept as caged pets although the practice had long become unfashionable before legislation came into outlaw it.

The bird was a favourite because of its interesting ‘facial’ markings and striking plumage.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) ‘possession or control of a wild bird is an offence of strict liability’.

Anyone with wild birds must show, on a balance of probabilities, that their possession is lawful and can be proved.

Finches can only be sold if they have been bred in captivity from lawfully-held parent birds, under government licence.

A spokesman said: “Reports of finch trapping inci-dents received by RSPB are routinely passed to our colleagues in the RSPCA who have developed an expertise in investigating these types of incidents.”

Finches can be sold in the UK black market for £40-£60 and there is evidence of some being exported to European countries such as Malta.

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