A Lincolnshire couple have been fined £200 each for their part in digging up 8,000 bluebells from woodland in a neighbouring county.
Native English bluebells are legally protected and intentionally uprooting them is against the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
King’s Lynn Magistrates’ Court heard on Thursday that the UK has more than half the world’s population of bluebells and the English variety is commercially desirable and often targeted by thieves.
The bulbs in this case at Thursford, Norfolk, were recovered and replanted, which took five men eight hours each at a cost of £625.
Prosecutor Ashley Petchey said the bluebells had been there for possibly hundreds of years and the flowers and surrounding land would take a long time to recover to “pre-disturbed levels”.
James Cross, 30, and Katie Bingham, 20, each pleaded guilty to uprooting a wild plant on March 23, 2021.
The court was told they were among a group of four people arrested for the offence following a tip-off about suspicious behaviour. Police found about 8,000 bulbs in mail bags.
Mr Petchey said: “Mr Cross gave his home address in Lincolnshire and said he was there for the purpose of walking his dogs. He said his mother had dropped them off and she was returning to pick them up later.”
Cross was questioned about a black Vauxhall Astra at the scene but denied he had arrived in it.
“He was noted to have very muddy-looking hands but said this was because he’d been in the forest with the dogs,” added Mr Petchey.
“Miss Bingham also provided a similar account.”
Claire Edgeler, mitigating for both defendants, said the evidence against her clients had been “very strong” and they were right to plead guilty.
“Whilst they are clearly aware that stealing bulbs that do not belong to them is an offence, they were not aware that it was a specific offence to uproot wild bulbs.
“It was selfish and irresponsible. They said to me that they were not intending to sell them but share them between themselves and their friends.
“They had no particular desire to make money. What the other [two] people were intending to do we don’t know.”
As well as the fine, Cross and Bingham, of Anfield Road, Long Sutton, Lincolnshire, were each ordered to pay £105 costs, £34 victim surcharge and £156.25 compensation.
Co-defendants Robert Barnes, 30, of Park Lane, Long Sutton, and Saskia Jackson, 28, of Lowgate, Lutton, Lincolnshire, did not appear as scheduled. They have not yet entered a plea. Their cases were adjourned to Thursday, October 21.