Antiques dealer from Ten Mile Bank who illegally sold crocodile and monkey skulls fined £930

John McCabe outside King's Lynn Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Burt

John McCabe outside King's Lynn Magistrates Court. Picture: Ian Burt

An antiques dealer has been fined £930 for selling crocodile and monkey skulls before doing his research.

John McCabe, of Sedge Drove in Ten Mile Bank, pleaded guilty to selling a specimen of a saltwater crocodile, three specimens of crab-eating Macaque - a species of monkey - and possessing cannabis.

King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court yesterday heard he bought the crocodile skull from an antique fair, thinking he was able to sell it.

McCabe bought two of the monkey skulls on Ebay from Indonesia and another from Germany.

The bones are listed as protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement between governments which ensures trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit, who work with the police, found McCabe had advertised a monkey skull on Ebay as legal to own and an investigation was launched into his whole account, the court heard.

The 36-year-old, who has been growing his business for three-and-half years, was fined £930 in total for selling monkey skulls on June 24, 2015, February 10, 2016 and January 13, 2016, £115 for a crocodile skull sold on April 4, 2015 and, £200 for two charges of possessing cannabis on February 10, 2016 and March 29, 2016.

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McCabe, who buys items from around the country to sell online, must also pay costs of £85 and a victim surcharge of £31.

District judge Nick Watson said: “I regard the possession of the monkey skulls as more serious because you made efforts to get these imported into the country. You knew or should have known they were on the list and you said in the advertisement you checked so you obviously made some effort to establish if it was on the list.

“The law allows the court to impose prison sentences, and very long prison sentences.

“By buying the items and selling them on, you are continuing that trade and putting species at risk.”

In defence, Charlotte Winchester told the court McCabe, who made around £40 profit on each of the skulls, accepted he did not do enough research and did not look at the law in depth.

She added: “He has cooperated fully with the investigation and pleaded guilty at the very first opportunity.

“He has no wish to be in this position again.”

Alan Roberts, investigative support officer with the wildlife crime unit, said after the sentencing: “The internet has opened up new avenues for illegal trade in wildlife, allowing people to operate on an international basis from their homes. But we are working with the police and the border force to set up steps to stamp out as much of this trade as we can.”