Ivory Act: Court date set ‘earlier than expected’ for final legal challenge by dealers and collectors (UK)

Jan 31, 2020 | News

By Noelle McElhatton, Antiques Trade Gazette

In front of three Lord Justices, lawyers for Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT) Ltd will make their last attempt to stop the act coming into force.

FACT won the right to appeal a High Court judicial review in November last year, which found in favour of DEFRA (the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the act’s sponsor. The group was encouraged to appeal when the High Court judge expressed “sympathy” with FACT’s cause, in particular the act’s likely financial impact on dealers and collectors. 

At the Court of Appeal in February – a date FACT’s lawyers say is “earlier than expected” – will argue the act denies the property rights of antique ivory owners under EU law.

Few Exemptions

The Ivory Act, which received royal assent in 2018, aims to tackle modern-day poaching of ivory from endangered African elephants. However, its ban on UK trade in ivory also includes antiques, with only a few artistic exemptions. 

Antiques trade bodies have mounted a five-year battle to preserve the trade in antique ivory, citing the lack of evidence connecting modern poached ivory with the antique variety.

‘No Conservation Benefits’

FACT’s lawyers, led by Thomas de la Mare QC, will argue the act has “far-reaching and arbitrary measures, supported by no cogent evidence that they will actually deliver any tangible conservation benefits”. In a statement this week, FACT’s law firm, Constantine Cannon, said its client was “pleased” the appeal date had been confirmed “so that a final judgement can be made before the Ivory Act comes into force.

“We were encouraged by the High Court’s recognition of the complexities [of the ban] and the great importance of this case,” Constantine Cannon said in its statement.

“We hope that the Court of Appeal will agree … the legitimate trade in antique cultural objects has no bearing on the abhorrent practice of elephant poaching and the illicit trade.” 

Appeal for Legal Fee Funds

The appeal hearing date of February 24-25 is “a little earlier than we expected”, Constantine Cannon partner Richard Pike said, adding that “the timing won’t affect our preparation as most of it is already done”.

However the timing puts pressure on FACT to accelerate its fund-raising to cover barrister fees. 

To donate, the details are: British Antique Dealers’ Association, Coutts & Co, Acc No: 00089001, Sort code: 18-00-02.


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