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Ivory Bill - Report

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 7:59 pm on 24th October 2018.

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Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 7:59 pm, 24th October 2018

My Lords, Amendment 42, which deals with the defence of ignorance in Clause 12, would remove the provision in the Bill stipulating that an offence has been committed only if the person knew or ought to have known or suspected that an item contained ivory. Under our amendment, it would be a defence if a person proved that they did not know or suspect, or could not have known or suspected, that an item contained ivory. That might sound as though there is not much difference, but there is an important difference in the burden of proof, and that is something that we seek to strengthen.

We considered this issue in Committee but failed to have a meeting of minds on the wording of this clause. At the time, the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Gardiner, advised that the provision had been included to help tackle the issue of illegal ivory in items being deliberately mislabelled as another substance, and to protect those who fall victim to such ploys who genuinely did not know that an item they were dealing with contained ivory. Of course, we know that mislabelling is common. Numerous studies have found that new elephant ivory offered for sale is often mislabelled as ivory from other species or another material altogether, such as bovine bone. In some instances, this may well have been due to genuine unawareness, although deliberate mislabelling is a well-known tactic used in the illegal ivory trade to evade detection and facilitate illegal sales. In those circumstances, a seller might provide other information to indicate more discreetly to buyers that the item is indeed ivory, such as close-up photographs that depict cross-hatching, a tell-tale sign of ivory, or code words used in the trade to surreptitiously indicate that an item is made of or contains ivory.

We must have a form of wording that differentiates between those who are playing the system and know perfectly well what they are trading and others who have been genuinely duped. If we stick with the original wording, it would too easy to claim that you were unaware of what you were buying and would make enforcement a real challenge for the agencies, which would have to prove that you knew it was ivory.

Our amendment allows for a defence of ignorance but introduces a higher evidential threshold than in the clause as currently drafted. It also brings it in line with the provision in Clause 12(3), which allows for a defence if an individual can demonstrate that they took all reasonable precautions to comply with the law. I am therefore moving this amendment and I hope noble Lords will see the sense of our arguments. I beg to move.