The Salala Magisterial Court, in Maimu, Bong County, has sentenced a 25-year-old man, Richard Tate, to three months in prison for being in possession of live animals without a license and cruelty to animals, violating Chapter 11, Section 11.2, and Chapter Section 18,31 of the new penal code of Liberia.
By: Victoria Wesseh
Delivering the sentence, Acting Stipendiary Magistrate Maxwell G. Karsor said that during the trial, defendant Tate was acquainted with his constitutional rights, but he pleaded guilty to the commission of the charges.
Defendant Tate later begged the court for mercy, but his plea for mercy was denied by Magistrate Karsor.
“Our law, procedure, and practice ignorance of the law do not excuse anyone,” Magistrate Karsor noted. “Therefore, and in view of the foregoing circumstances, defendant Richard R. Tate is hereby guilty of the crimes of possession of live animals without a license and cruelty to animals and, therefore, faces an imprisonment period of three (3) months.”
The three-month sentence, according to legal practitioners, represents the highest ever sentence for a wildlife case of this nature in the history of Liberia.
The legal expert said the international community recognizes Dwarf Crocodiles as being at threat of extinction; therefore, state parties should do a lot to protect their survival.
“They are amongst the least known crocodilian species in the world,” the expert noted.
According to officers of the Liberia Special Wildlife Investigation Unit (SWIU) and the Ministry of Justice, the case against Tate focused on the defendant being an international trafficker of the animals. He had advertised them for sale on an international market, which could have resulted in them being trafficked to anyone, anywhere in the world with access to that advertisement.
The Liberia Special Wildlife Investigation Unit collaborates with partners, including the Liberian National Police, Forestry Development Authority, Wildlife Crime Taskforce, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection, Libassa Wildlife Sanctuary, and others, to bring those responsible for wildlife trafficking to justice.
The hunting, buying, selling, capturing, keeping as a pet, or eating of protected species is an offense for which those responsible will be prosecuted.
The Special Wildlife Investigation Unit, comprised of officers from LNP, FDA, and LRA, works with other mandated authorities within Liberia.
The joint team of the Special Wildlife Investigation Unit also indicated that this arrest is a significant step forward in the ongoing efforts to combat wildlife trafficking, citing recent convictions of two individuals for trafficking 369 kilos of pangolin scales.