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Harsher penalties for Wildlife Trade Offences - UK Government announces new provisions

18th June 2003

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs - News Release - 221/03

Provisions for increased penalties for wildlife trade offences have been pushed up the agenda by a Government amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill.

Minister Elliot Morley said the Government is taking urgent action following overwhelming support for increases in penalties outlined in the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (COTES) consultation paper which issued in January.

The new penalties will apply to certain 'internal' offences, including trading in the highly lucrative 'shatoosh' shawls, made from fine hair of slaughtered Tibetan antelope, and illegal in this country. Shatoosh shawls can retail for up to 15,000, and black market rhino horn for up to 30,000 per kilo. Other species, traditionally used for medical properties in East Asia and across the world, including the UK, such as tigers, bears, and some plants, are also subject to the controls.

The proposals include increasing the penalty for people found guilty of illegally trading in endangered species from two to five years imprisonment, and making those offences arrestable.

Elliot Morley said:

"I firmly believe that we must address the illegal trade in endangered species as a matter of urgency. Only then can we ensure that those wildlife criminals who cynically exploit our world's most endangered species, with no regard for the consequences of their actions, are properly punished. It is my belief that a five year prison sentence will also act as a significant deterrent."

Offences which attract a five year prison sentence are automatically arrestable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The new Clause will introduce similar provisions in Scotland.

A separate announcement will be made later about the other issues covered by the COTES review.

1. The Department published its consultation paper on the review of COTES on 15 January 2003 and is available at The period for comments expired on 4 April 2003.

2. The amendment takes the form of a Clause submitted for inclusion in the Criminal Justice Bill, currently being considered in the House of Lords. It should receive Royal Assent later this year. A record of the discussion on penalties for wildlife trade offences at Commons Committee stage can be found at

3. The Government published a White Paper in Criminal Justice Reform - 'Justice for All' on 17 July 2002 which can be found The Criminal Justice Bill was published on 21 November 2002 and is available at For media queries on the criminal justice bill please contact Home Office Press Office on 020 7273 3782.

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