British man guilty of killing rare butterfly spared jail

2017-04-07 19:50
A handout picture shows a Large Blue butterfly. (Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation via AFP)

A handout picture shows a Large Blue butterfly. (Martin Warren, Butterfly Conservation via AFP)

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London - A man convicted of capturing and killing two of Britain's rarest butterflies, the endangered Large Blues, was spared jail on Friday, but ordered to perform 250 hours of community service.

The court in the southwest city of Bristol also banned Philip Cullen from three nature reserves popular with the Large Blues, a species that has protected status.

"He is extremely remorseful," Cullen's lawyer Michael Hartnell said. "His interest in the countryside and wildlife is one he has had for a long, long time."

The 57-year-old Cullen will also have to pay £300 in prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

Cullen was found guilty last month of killing the butterflies in what prosecutor Kevin Withey described as a "unique case".

"There has never been a prosecution in terms of capturing and killing in the past," Withey said at the time.

Conservation volunteers spotted Cullen trapping Large Blues with a small net in two protected areas in Gloucestershire and Somerset in southwest England.

Police then raided his home in Bristol in February last year and found 30 trays of dead moths and butterflies, including the Large Blues in question.

Investigators discovered that Cullen was selling the butterflies on eBay while he claimed he had bought them from a French farm.

First discovered in Britain in 1795, Large Blues had disappeared from the country by 1979. They were re-introduced from Sweden in 1983 at a dozen sites.

Butterfly Conservation, a non-governmental group, said there was a black market for mounted Large Blues mocked up to look like Victorian-era specimens that could sell for up to £300 each.

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