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Father, son fined for cutting trees

Published:Thursday | November 27, 2014 | 11:00 AM

Charged $10,000 and ordered to plant more than 911 seedlings

Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer

A father and son have been fined $10,000 and ordered to plant and maintain more than 900 trees after being convicted of cutting and attempting to remove young plants from privately owned land that had been declared a forest management area.

Henry Taylor and his son, Norman, are the first persons to be prosecuted under the Forest Act for offences committed on a privately owned holding. The $10,000 fine represents an approximate value of the young plants the men were attempting to remove when the police held them at the Tulloch Estates, St Catherine, on Tuesday, July 15.

In handing down sentence on Wednesday, November 19, Resident Magistrate Natalie Brooks also ordered the men to serve 100 hours of community service, planting 911 seedlings and maintaining them, during which time they will be supervised by the Probation Office, with the Forestry Department providing technical advice.

"This is a victory for the Forestry Department," Rainee Oliphant, senior legal officer at the Forestry Department, said in a release on Friday. "Though the pecuniary nature of the circumstance of the perpetrators resulted in a relatively low fine being applied, the recognition of the importance of replacing the trees that were cut goes a long way in protecting the environment in the future."

Caught Trespassing

The facts as outlined by the clerk of court are, on Tuesday, July 15, Roger Turner, managing director of Tulloch Estates, was on a section that had been declared known as the Hampton Forest Management Area when he saw two men cutting young trees with cutlasses. He advised them that they were trespassing and illegally cutting down trees in a Forest Management Area. They were apprehended and handed over to the police and, following investigations by the Bog Walk police, both men were charged.

Under the Forest Act, Section 31(1) says, "Any person who, in any forest reserve, protected area or forest management area fells any tree shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction before a Resident Magistrate to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000) and in default of payment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years."

Tulloch Estates is among a number of privately owned forests that have been declared a forest management area under the Forestry Department's Land Declaration Programme. The Forest Act of 1996 allows private landowners to apply for their forested lands to be declared as either a forest reserve or a forest management area. Landowners can receive benefits such as remission of their property taxes and the prosecution of offenders under the Forest Act. Persons who are prosecuted under the Forest Act face substantially larger fines than under the Praedial Larceny Act for various forest-related offences such as stealing lumber.