Yesterday the Court of Appeal refused to allow the Crown Prosecution Service to appeal to the House of Lords in the case of Wilfred Bull. In February he had been convicted of conspiring to sell the world's largest rhino horn haul, a plot he hatched from his prison cell where he was serving life for murdering his wife in 1986. Bull, 63, , was sentenced to 15 months to run concurrently.
The horns - used as an aphrodisiac and as medicine in the Far East - were confiscated, but in June the Court of Appeal ruled that they should be returned as they were collected before strict import controls were introduced under the 1985 Control of Trade in Endangered Species Act.
David Bowles, head of the RSPCA's international department, said: "This is an extremely disappointing result and one which will have severe ramifications worldwide.
"By returning the horn to someone convicted of such a serious crime, we are sending out a confusing message to those we are trying to influence.
"Now there's the possibility that it's going to get back to the international market."
Although the world ban on rhino horn sale started in 1985, similar laws were passed in the UK in 1976. The RSPCA said Bull should have been required to prove that the horns were brought into the UK before introduction of the earlier laws.Reuse content