UK first as ‘rare butterfly killer’ sentenced

A man has received the UK’s first ever conviction for catching a butterfly.

Apr 7, 2017
L-R: PC Joe Swan, Sgt Thomas Neilson and Sgt Chris Smith

Phillip Cullen, 57, was spared jail after being seen hunting the protected ‘large blue’ species at reserves in the South West in 2015.

On further investigation, officers discovered specimens of some of the UK’s rarest butterflies at Cullen’s home in Bristol – including two large blues.

On Friday (April 7), he was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and was ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work.

Cullen has also been banned from three nature reserves for five years and was fined £380.

Alan Sumnall, of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, said: “For far too long, wildlife crime has gone under the radar and convictions have been disappointingly rare.

“But this is a victory for the people who have worked tirelessly to protect the large blue and for conservation as a whole.

“Our responsibility now is to continue the culture of standing up for wildlife, and we’re grateful to have the public’s support in doing so.”

The large blue is recognised as the UK’s rarest butterfly after becoming extinct in the country in 1979.

The species was reintroduced from continental Europe in 1984, and there are now more than 10,000 living in conservation sites in the South West.

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