Couple fined £400 for digging up 8,000 Norfolk bluebells

Raveningham gardens are open for the public to see the spring flowers. Bluebells.

Intentionally uprooting native English bluebells is illegal. - Credit: Nick Butcher

A couple have been fined £200 each for their part in digging up 8,000 bluebells from woodland in Norfolk.

Native English bluebells are legally protected and intentionally uprooting them is against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday that the UK has more than half the world’s population of bluebells and the English variety is commercially desirable and often targeted by thieves.

The bulbs in this case at Thursford were recovered and replanted, which took five men eight hours each at a cost of £625.

Prosecutor Ashley Petchey said the bluebells had been there for possibly hundreds of years and the flowers and surrounding land would take a long time to recover to “pre-disturbed levels”.

James Cross, 30, and Katie Bingham, 20, each pleaded guilty to uprooting a wild plant on March 23, 2021.

The court was told they were among a group of four people arrested for the offence at about 4.30pm following a tip-off about suspicious behaviour.

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Police found about 8,000 bulbs in mail bags.

Mr Petchey said: “Mr Cross gave his home address in Lincolnshire and said he was there for the purpose of walking his dogs. He said his mother had dropped them off and she was returning to pick them up later.”

Cross was questioned about a black Vauxhall Astra at the scene but denied he had arrived in it.

“He was noted to have very muddy-looking hands but said this was because he’d been in the forest with the dogs,” added Mr Petchey.

“Miss Bingham also provided a similar account.”

Claire Edgeler, mitigating for both defendants, said the evidence against her clients had been “very strong” and they were right to plead guilty.

“While they are clearly aware that stealing bulbs that do not belong to them is an offence, they were not aware that it was a specific offence to uproot wild bulbs," she said.

“It was selfish and irresponsible. They said to me that they were not intending to sell them but share them between themselves and their friends."

As well as the fine, Cross and Bingham, of Anfield Road, Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, were each ordered to pay £105 costs, £34 victim surcharge and £156.25 compensation.

Co-defendant Robert Barnes, 30, of Park Lane, Long Sutton, did not appear as scheduled. His case was adjourned to Thursday, October 21.

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