Letter: Rhino horn shock

Sir: Surely the whole conservation world is shocked at the news that Wilfred Bull who, while still in jail for murdering his wife, imported into the UK pounds 3m worth of rhino horn, is now to have his haul returned to him as a result of the decision of the Court of Appeal. He must be a very happy man to know that he may make a quick buck from selling the proceeds of his nefarious activities, to bolster up the sickening and illegal Chinese medicine trade in the Far East. There must be something seriously wrong.

We know that the G8 Heads of Government have endorsed their Environment Ministers' decisions for immediate action to combat the vast international trade in parts from endangered mammals. Now, our Court of Appeal denies the Crown Prosecution Service leave even to appeal to the House of Lords to stop horns worth all this money from one of the world's most endangered mammals being returned to a convicted criminal. It makes nonsense of the law.

The horns reportedly smuggled here were seized by the police in 1986 on an RSPCA tip-off. Apparently, the 103 horns were collected by Mr Bull before 1985 import controls were instigated and this amazing decision now surely undermines the work done by Customs & Excise and the police to stop the trade.

The RSPCA rightly says that repercussions could be international and conservationists overseas may take the UK to the cleaners on this issue. Ignorance and/or preoccupation with legal technicalities has given a tremendous boost to those who are intent on seeing the extermination of the few remaining tigers and rhinos for money. All this is while African law enforcement men are murdered trying to protect endangered species in countries such as Zambia, which has now lost virtually all its rhino.

I appeal to Britain's conservationists to call for a public enquiry or to seek justice in other courts. Why deny a hearing by law lords rich in experience as well as many who are notable for their common sense and their realisation that conservation responsibilities have to be taken seriously?

DAVID SHEPHERD

Cranleigh, Surrey

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