Court told serial egg thief may be first to be jailed

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One of Britain's most prolific egg-collecting criminals could be the first person to be jailed under new wildlife protection legislation.

One of Britain's most prolific egg-collecting criminals could be the first person to be jailed under new wildlife protection legislation.

Police officers found three goshawk eggs and four goosander eggs during a raid on Barry Sheavils' home in June, only a month after being fined £1,000 for the illegal possession of 1,300 rare eggs, South East Northumberland magistrates' court was told yesterday.

Sheavils, 41, of Blyth, Northumberland, told police he was given the goshawk and goosander eggs by an unnamed man as consolation for the loss of his large collection after his conviction in May. The eggs were donated to the Royal Museum in Scotland.

The court was told that he was also stopped on marshes in Norfolk nine days after he was fined with other convicted egg collectors but was not charged.

Sheavils has convictions for collecting rare birds' eggs stretching back to 1987 and has previously tried to take golden eagle eggs from a nest. Jonathan Moore, for the prosecution, told the magistrates: "The man is a persistent offender. It has been heard that he is stopping this activity but quite clearly this has not happened."

Sheavils admitted possessing the eggs and also possessing amphetamine sulphate, a class B drug, which he told police he used to stay awake during his "egging" activities. He will be sentenced next month.

If Sheavils is jailed it would be the first time under the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000. The Act gave courts the power to jail convicted egg collectors for a maximum of six months and came into force in January.

After the hearing, Keith Morton, an ivestigator for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "Mr Sheavils is up there with the very worst of Britain's egg-collecting criminals. Serious egg collectors like Sheavils target the very rarest species. While no humane person should wish to see anyone go to jail, there can be few egg collectors who deserve it more than Mr Sheavils. He has had many chances to stop this and many warnings in the past and he has continued regardless."

Sheavils featured in a Channel 5 documentary in 1997 in which he admitted: "Egg collecting is my life, I just love going. I could never get it out of system."

* A 57-year-old former miner who sold part of a 2,000-strong egg collection was given a three-month suspended jail sentence yesterday.

The full extent of Michael Davidson's obsession only became clear when RSPB officers raided his home in Tyne and Wear and found hundreds of eggs. They confiscated a computer and took a year to decipher passwords which protected computer files documenting his exploits.

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