Reserve vandalism conviction upheld

A man found guilty of vandalising a nature reserve that is home to rare butterflies, has lost his appeal against conviction.

Anthony Barnett was convicted of criminal damage at Shrewsbury Magistrates Court in May this year after vandalising gates and equipment at Prees Heath Common reserve near Whitchurch, which is owned by wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation.

The heathland reserve is a vitally important wildlife refuge and is home to the rare Silver-studded Blue butterfly.

Mr Barnett, from Hodnet, near Market Drayton, was previously sentenced to a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay compensation and costs after damaging gates and an information sign at the reserve last year.

Earlier this week Mr Barnett, who is in his 70s, appealed against his conviction and sentence at Shrewsbury Crown Court. The appeal was dismissed.

Barnett has also been banned from going onto the Prees Heath Common reserve in the future.

Despite the ongoing court case, Butterfly Conservation were able to continue their highly regarded restoration work at the site, which is helping to protect the Silver-studded Blue and other butterflies.

Prees Heath is a stronghold for the protected Silver-studded Blue which has suffered dramatic population falls across the country.

The vital work being undertaken at the reserve was rewarded this summer when more than 3,000 Silver-studded Blues were counted in just one morning.

Stephen Lewis, Butterfly Conservation's warden at Prees Heath, explained: "The Court has upheld Mr Barnett's conviction for the damage he caused.

"We are very grateful for all the support we have received from members of the public over this matter, and especially grateful to the hundreds of people who signed the petition to ensure that whoever was responsible for the damage was prosecuted.

"The work to restore the heathland on the reserve continues for the benefit of wildlife, visitors and the Prees Heath Commoners.

"The reserve provides one of the leading wildlife spectacles in the whole of the Midlands, on one morning this summer 3,364 Silver-studded Blue butterflies were counted by volunteers."