Resolution for antiques dealer after ‘draconian’ ivory seizure


Laura Chesters, Antiques Trade Gazette

Date Published

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Clocks and barometer specialist Russ Allen, who runs Steam Mill Clocks, told ATG that 10 officers were involved in the seizure last month when he was arrested and bailed. It is believed a member of the public alerted Derbyshire police to the bronze mounted ivory thermometer that he had offered for sale online.

The incident has now been resolved with the police via a community resolution which enforced the seizure of the item.

Allen, who was represented by solicitor Bill Soughton at Johnson Partnership in Nottingham, was interviewed at Chesterfield Police Station by a local police officer and an officer from the Wildlife Crime Unit. The thermometer is an antique and pre-1947, but it is insufficiently worked under the amended 2013 CITES guidelines and therefore not legal to sell.

Allen had not realised the item was not deemed worked and now hopes to alert other dealers to the regulation surrounding ivory. He said: “The trade need to be aware. We must stick together and pool our combined expertise to the benefit as a whole. The endangered species legislation is not going away and I suspect that it is going to get much stricter.”

A police spokeswoman confirmed a community resolution, which is used for less serious offences or anti-social behaviour, had been agreed and the item seized.

Maggie Campbell Pedersen, The Gemmological Association of Great Britain president and author of the 2015 book Ivory, said the December 2013 guidance changes on worked and unworked ivory had not been “widely enough publicised”.

“Simply to polish and mount an elephant tusk is no longer sufficient. It must now be carved on most of its surface to be considered ‘worked’.”

Allen said at the time of the police swoop, the police arrived “in a transit van and with CID and plain clothes policeman”.

He added: “The search warrant authorised the search and seizure of computers, telephones and bank records, the loss of which is bound to have significant consequences to anyone engaged in legitimate business. The police action is draconian and it makes me wonder how many perfectly legitimate and honest dealers are putting themselves unknowingly at risk.”