A MAN has been sentenced for selling protected animals.

Graham Martin, 37, of Furzemoors, Bracknell, was sentenced to a 12 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay £265 in costs at Slough Magistrates’ Court on Monday (February 24).

Martin, who runs an organisation called Berkshire Reptile Rescue in Bracknell, was arrested on January 9 last year and charged on February 24, 2013.

He pleaded guilty at Monday’s hearing to the following three counts: Prohibited sale of a protected species (Spur thighed tortoise) in Furzemoors, Bracknell, on 12 February 2012.

Unlawful use of a protected species for commercial gain (Spur thighed and/or Hermanns tortoises) in Aldershot, Hampshire, on 26 September 2012.

Unlawful use of a protected species for commercial gain (Spur thighed and/or Hermanns tortoises) in Wooburn Common between 3 and 25 November 2012.

The charges relate to protected species through CITES (Control of Trade in Endangered Species), which are considered the most vulnerable species of plants and animal on the planet.

The sale and commercial use of these species is strictly controlled through the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997.

Investigating officer, PC Ian Whitlock, from Thames Valley Police, said: “I am pleased that Martin has pleaded guilty to the three offences, following a lengthy and thorough investigation.

“Hopefully this will send out a clear message that offences relating to illegal wildlife trade will be investigated and prosecuted by Thames Valley Police.

“This is the first time the Force has prosecuted offences under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulations 1997. Offences relating to CITES, and in particular reptiles, is one of the National Wildlife Crime priorities.” Head of Compliance at the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), Alison Clarke added: “The wildlife legislation and licensing system exists to prevent endangered species from being taken from the wild for trade purposes. This case shows that failure to comply can lead to prosecution.

“AHVLA Wildlife Inspectors and Compliance Team supported Thames Valley Police in this investigation and will continue to assist Law Enforcement Agencies where there are breaches of Wildlife Legislation.” Head of Unit at the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Det Insp Nevin Hunter said: “The conviction is the culmination of many months of hard work by PC Ian Whitlock, who completed a detailed investigation into the illegal commercial sale and use of these endangered tortoises.

“The reality is that some people try to make commercial gain from endangered species whilst at the same time claiming to have the best interests of the species involved.

“On this occasion clear offending has been identified and has resulted in the conviction, which is important as it should reassure the public in general that wildlife crime is taken seriously. It should also act as reassurance to those involved in the legal trade of endangered species who play such a significant part in ensuring that species are conserved.

“In recent weeks the United Kingdom has shown that it can play a significant role in the conservation of endangered species. But this is not just about the trade in elephants, rhino and tigers in far away lands. Tackling the illegal commercial use of, and trade in endangered species in this country forms part of the battleground as well.

“I commend PC Whitlock and the Vivienne Perry at the Crown Prosecution Service for doggedly seeing this case through to its outcome.” Speaking after the case, Mr Martin said: "I only pleaded guilty as I needed the case gone away as it was affecting my mental health.

The court case cost the tax payer more than ten thousand pound and I was told to pay £250 based on the fact I was told by DEFRA I could charge a rehome fee then they changed the rules without telling me and I can only charge a donation.

"The case was over semantics and redtape more then protecting the animals."