England

Rare butterfly killer Philip Cullen spared jail

Phillip Cullen Image copyright PA
Image caption Philip Cullen was given a six-month suspended sentence for capturing two butterflies at reserves in Somerset and in Gloucestershire

A collector who captured and killed the UK's rarest butterfly - the Large Blue - has been spared jail.

Philip Cullen, 57, was given a six-month suspended sentence for capturing two butterflies at reserves in Somerset and in Gloucestershire in 2015.

He was convicted in March of six charges, relating to killing, capturing and possessing the endangered species.

His is believed to be the first prosecution in the UK involving offences related to the species.

Bristol Magistrates' Court heard that Cullen was seen chasing a Large Blue with a child's net at Daneway Banks in Gloucestershire in June 2015.

He was later spotted with a small net at Collard Hill in Somerset.

It was reported to police who raided his home and found up to 30 trays of butterflies, including Large Blues.

Image copyright National Wildlife Crime Unit
Image caption Unemployed Cullen had labelled two of the butterflies, which he falsely claimed were from France, "DB" and "CH", the initials of the two sites where he was spotted

Prosecutor Ian Jackson told the court the charges had been brought "on the grounds of endangering a species".

Michael Hartnell, defending, said in mitigation the 57-year-old had accepted the "enormity" of what he had done and was "extremely remorseful".

Cullen, of The Grove, Warmley, Bristol, was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.

He was also given a five-year criminal behaviour order banning him from three nature reserves popular with the Large Blue and was ordered to pay £300 prosecution costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

The Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT), said it was the "first UK conviction for collecting a butterfly" and a "breakthrough in the battle against wildlife crime".


Butterfly laws

Image copyright Martin Warren/Butterfly Conservation
Image caption The Large Blue spends much of the year feeding on grubs within red ants nests
  • There are 59 species of UK butterfly, 25 of which are under some form of protection
  • Six species are fully protected, including the Large Blue, which means they cannot be collected, sold or killed
  • A further 19 species are partially protected, which means it is illegal to sell them, dead or alive
  • It is illegal to collect any butterfly species from any Site of Special Scientific Interest in the UK
  • It is legal to possess insect collections only if they were taken from the wild without contravening the law

Source: Butterfly Conservation


The Large Blue (Maculinea arion) species became extinct in Britain 1979.

It was reintroduced at sites, including Collard Hill and Daneway Banks, in the 1980s and in 2004 it was found at nine locations in the country.

It has a wingspan of more than two inches and can be identified by a row of black spots on its upper forewing.

A person who collects and studies butterflies is called a lepidopterist after the branch of zoology that deals with butterflies and moths.

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