Large blue butterflies in court

A man has appeared in court and charged with capturing, killing and possessing the UK’s rarest butterfly species. 

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Large blue butterfly © Alex Berryman

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Appearing at the Bristol Magistrates’ Court, Phillip Cullen, 57, from Cadbury Heath, has denied the six charges against him.

He is alleged to have deliberately captured and killed two large blue butterflies in 2015, one in Gloucestershire and one in Somerset.

“The butterfly became extinct in this country in the late 1970s and was reintroduced,” said prosecutor Kevin Withey in court. “[It] is a protected species in certain parts of the country.” 

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Large blue butterfly, showing the undersides of the wings © Alex Berryman

The court heard that the butterflies were found at Cullun’s home after a police search on 13 February 2016.

The trial is due to take place on 16 March, and if convicted, Cullun faces a prison sentence or unlimited fine.

Of the 59 butterflies species found in the UK, 6 are fully protected meaning that they cannot be collected killed or sold.

The large blue butterfly is one of these 6 species, and was reintroduced to the UK following a major conservation programme after its extinction in 1979.

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