Sheffield woman escapes jail over sales of illegal tiger parts in jewellery

Catherine Emberton, 29, arrives at Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing
Catherine Emberton, 29, arrives at Sheffield Crown Court for sentencing
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A jeweller who sold items on eBay containing tiger teeth and claws has avoided a prison sentence.

Sheffield Crown Court heard silversmith Catherine Emberton, aged 28, advertised 129 items from November 2012 to June 2014 as containing derivatives of tiger – an endangered species.

Catherine Emberton's work bench containing tiger teeth and claws

Catherine Emberton's work bench containing tiger teeth and claws

During that time her business, which she ran from a workshop at her home on Gleadless Road, Heeley, Sheffield, had a turnover of £17,360.

After the hearing Andy McWilliam, investigations officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit said: “Anybody who chooses to trade in endangered species has a duty to know the law. The illegal trade feeds the marketplace and is a threat to these species in the wild.”

Emberton, admitted three offences under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997.

Police and the Wildlife Crime Unit recovered tiger teeth and claws in a raid on her home last June after a tip-off she was trading jewellery containing tiger parts on eBay under the name ‘Gypsy Silver’.

Under UK law selling or keeping ‘worked on’ derivatives of endangered species such as tigers is prohibited with a five-year jail term maximum penalty.

Emberton claimed she had legally been allowed to sell the items because they were ‘worked’ pieces of jewellery from before 1947 as permitted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

But the court heard despite posting a disclaimer on her eBay page, she had no proof the pieces supposedly from the Victorian Raj era in India in the 18th century pre-dated 1947.

Richard Thyne, prosecuting, said without DNA profiling and radio carbon dating it would not be possible for Emberton to prove the age of the tiger specimens.

“She did not make reasonable inquiries as to the provenance of the items she was selling or make inquiries as to the law on the trade of endangered species,” he said.

Peter Pimm, defending, said there were many other sellers of such jewellery on eBay and Emberton had satisfied customers worldwide.

Two independent Sheffield jewellers had also thought the items she had sold were ‘very likely’ Victorian and ‘probably Victorian or early Edwardian’ when shown photos.

“The last thing she wants to do is to make a profit from endangered species that is not her motive,” said Mr Pimm.

“The idea of trading in endangered species is complete anathema to her.”

Judge Robert Moore gave Emberton a 12-month community order and ordered her to carry out 120 hours of unpaid community work.

He told her: “You are fundamentally a good person. This is not a case of fraudulent or dishonest selling of items derived from endangered species. If it had been the sentence would have been immediate custody and substantial.”

But he warned: “Anybody selling jewellery based on endangered species needs to check the precise law.”

He ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the jewellery seized.

Afterwards Emberton said: “I feel the investigators should be going after the real villains and not people like me. They could stop people trading on eBay in endangered species derivatives tomorrow if the site complied.”