Vancouver Island eagle poachers sentenced to jail time, fine, and a ban
Dec 01 2011
A bald eagle feeds on a dead salmon carcass on the Harrison River near Harrison Mills in the Fraser Valley November 17, 2010. Two eagle poachers will be serving their weekends in jail, must pay a fine, and are banned from possessing bird parts for three years, a judge decided at a sentencing hearing at the Duncan courthouse last week.Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
Two eagle poachers will be serving their weekends in jail, must pay a fine, and are banned from possessing bird parts for three years, a judge decided at a sentencing hearing at the Duncan courthouse last week.
In April, provincial court Judge Michael Hubbard convicted Jerome Seymour of 16 of the 27 counts against him related to killing and selling 10 bald eagles, two swans and one kingfisher in Ladysmith, Duncan and Chilliwack between January and April 2006.
His cousin, William Seymour, was convicted of three of five like counts, occurring in April 2006 in Duncan. Both men claimed it was their aboriginal right to possess eagle parts.
In convicting the men, Hubbard dismissed defences of entrapment and aboriginal rights.
The sentencing of both man commenced Nov. 24, again before Hubbard, in a Duncan courtroom after a nearly five-month delay.
"I have concluded that the principles of denunciation and deterrence require me to impose a jail sentence as our precious wildlife must be protected-and a strong message sent," Hubbard said.
Believing the cousins undertook the activity for profit and not cultural reasons, the judge sentenced Jerome Seymour to three days imprisonment for each of the 16 counts against him, for a total of 48 days. The sentence will be served on weekends.
Jerome Seymour was also sentenced to the $1,310 fine and a three-year prohibition from possessing eagles, kingfishers, swans, or like birds and their parts, as well as to do 100 hours of community service in the next year.
In addition to three days imprisonment for each of the three counts against him, for a total of nine days, William Seymour received the same three-year prohibition and a fine of $200, as well as 50 hours of community service to be completed within one year.
Maximum penalties for the men were up to $50,000 or a term not to exceed six months, or both, for each offence.
Prior to Hubbard's decision, John Blackman, environmental Crown prosecutor for Vancouver Island, recommended a prison sentence of two years less a day for Jerome Seymour, in addition to a fine of $1,310 - an amount equal to the crown's estimation of the monetary benefits gained from the offences.
Blackman said in the space of three months and five days, Jerome Seymour committed 11 separate offences of trafficking wildlife and five of hunting out of season - all purely for financial gain.
Blackman called Jerome Seymour's attitude "callous and disrespectful" and that "no remorse has ever been expressed."
The Crown further recommended both Seymour cousins be prohibited from possessing eagles and their parts for 10 years, citing deterrence and "the continued insistence of both accused to have an inherent right to do what they did."
Blackman said "in less than 24 hours, William Seymour committed two counts of trafficking and one count of hunting out of season, which is essentially hunting for the purposes of trafficking."
He recommended 60 days imprisonment and a $200 fine - again, the crown's estimation of the monetary benefits gained from the offences.
Defence lawyer George Wool cautioned Hubbard not to fall victim to a double standard. He cited similar case law in which "white ranchers" in the Interior were given minimal fines by "almost apologetic" judges.
"Sentencing and punishment in law must be consistent," he said. "Inconsistency breeds disrespect. It troubles me to even think the Crown is saying it's a fine with court sympathy, but if you're aboriginal, no sir, you go to jail."
Wool went on to say that Jerome Seymour, in particular, was counselled into his actions by undercover agents, including conservation officer Richard Grindrod, who was later found to be defrauding his employer.
"Mr. Seymour was induced and counselled by a government agent to kill eagles." Wool urged Hubbard to sentence the men for "one eagle" because the rest of the kills were made as part of a "Crowndriven" agenda. Had it not been for the undercover sting, the Seymour cousins wouldn't be in front of the courts, Wool argued.
"These are not criminals," he said. "The Crown drove these people to do what they did," he added, noting his clients were "two unemployed, vulnerable young men" at the time.
"They've been victims of a misguided investigation. You can make an impoverished aboriginal do things because of his poverty and we in this courtroom will never understand that."
Wool is expected to appeal the sentence.