A ‘conservationist’ appeared in court after he battered three protected newts to death with a hammer and posted the remains to Natural England in a jiffy bag.
Brian Butcher, 75, has had a thriving population of more than 500 rare Great Crested Newts on his land in Berkeley, Glos., since he installed a pond ten years ago.
But father-of-two Brian believes the newts are under threat from a neighbouring landowner who dug up verges and hedgerows to build bungalows on his property.
He told magistrates’ he had killed the newts, a protected species, out of desperation in a bid to PROTECT them by alerting Natural England to the threat.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of killing and transporting the newts before magistrates in Stroud, Glos., – offences against the Conservation of Species Regulations of 2010.
Speaking after the hearing Mr Butcher accused conservation body Natural England of failing to protect the habitat.
He said: ”In the regulations it states it is an offence to disturb the resting place of a Great Crested Newt.
”And what he’s been doing, he’s been close-mowing the margins of the field, chain-harrowing and rolling the ground with a huge roller.
”All of that destroys newt habitat. And he does this at the time of the year when the newts are most active.
”I’ve not only told Natural England, I’ve been telling the police for four and a half years and no one will do anything about it. He’s deliberately destroying the habitat, there’s no question about it.
”I’ve tried everything else and nothing else has worked, so I killed three of my newts and sent them to Natural England in the post. I knew I was heading for trouble, but I felt this was the only way left for me to bring this out into the open.
”I hit them on the head with a hammer and sent them in the post, and I said, ‘I’ll keep sending you dead newts until you make up your mind who is supposed to protect this species.’ ”
The court heard that Mr Butcher dug the pond in his garden shortly after he moved into the property ten years ago.
It was soon teeming with Great Crested Newts, a protected species in the UK, which breed in the pond and move into hedgerows and verges on adjacent land for the rest of the year.
Mr Butcher told the court that four and a half years ago a neighbouring landowner began grubbing up the verges and destroying the hedgerows.
He alleges the work was being carried out to destroy the newt population so the neighbour can get planning permission for the 11 hectares of fields where he has already built three bungalows.
Mr Butcher said he had provided Natural England with evidence, but they had refused to take action against the landowner.
He told the court he slaughtered the amphibians out of desperation and frustration after battling for four and a half years against the ”incompetence and negligence” of Natural England’s wildlife protection officials and his neighbour.
Magistrates accepted he had acted out of feelings of distress at what he perceived to be a threat to his newt colony and conditionally discharged him for two years and ordered him to pay £40 costs.
A spokesman for Natural England, speaking after the case, said: ”We recognise that feelings have run high in this case.
”But the deliberate killing of these rare amphibians is an offence and we hope that the hearing will prevent further such actions taking place.”