Published By: The Scotsman.com
Date: Friday 11 May 2012
A MAN who ran an online business from his home selling teeth, bones and pelts from rare animals has been spared jail.
Steven Paterson, 48, became the first person in Scotland to be convicted of trading parts of endangered species.
He admitted he bought a pilot whale skull, the skulls of two harbour porpoises and the tooth of a dead sperm whale, which he put up for sale on his website, Shark Global Imports, advertised as the “number one website for shark teeth”.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court also heard that he placed an advertisement offering two dead green turtles for sale.
The court was told that Paterson, a father of two, was caught after officials from the UK Border Agency came across his website. Police then searched his home in Glenrothes, Fife, where they found hundreds of specimens including 517 shark jaws, 78 teeth, 16 skulls and a skin, pelt and claws. There was also a pilot whale skull in his bedroom, which he told police he had bought for £499.
Shona McJannett, prosecuting, said Paterson did not have a trading licence, but his site offered a number of items for sale.
The depute fiscal said: “The national wildlife crime unit received information from the UK Border Agency that trading was ongoing on that website, and that a great number of items were being advertised. Police had a search warrant and a number of items were recovered from his home.”
Ms McJannett added: “Officers discovered the tooth of a dead sperm whale on a coffee table in his lounge. He said this was advertised for £185.
“It was also found on his website that he was advertising for sale two green turtles. He admitted buying them on eBay and selling them for £79.00 and £89.99 each. He said he had been naive.”
She said an application for an animal trading licence was found on his computer. Paterson had requested that the hundreds of shark items found in his home be “donated to the wildlife crime unit and used for educational purposes”, she told the court.
Paterson’s pleas of not guilty to offering for sale two sawfish saws, and advertising for sale a walrus tusk, were accepted.
He admitted charges of using rare animal parts for commercial gain, contrary to the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulation Act.
Steven Gleeson, defending, said: “My client is an individual who since a child has had an interest in natural history. The website was already up and running when he bought it, and although this was his hobby, it wasn’t a viable business. He lost more money than he made.”
Sheriff Alastair Thornton said the case was “serious enough to merit a custodial sentence” but instead sentenced him to 160 hours of community service.
He said: “These species involved in this case are amongst the most endangered, and it’s clear you were acting with a financial motive. I don’t accept there was anything naive about your involvement.”
Police confirmed it was the “first case of its kind in Scotland”.