Czech hunters frustrated over “King of Poachers” walking free

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A court in Brno did not find enough evidence on Tuesday to convict a man dubbed “the King of Poachers”. The man, who had more than 1,300 hunting trophies in his home, claimed he inherited them. The verdict has upset Czech hunters who say that under the current Czech law, it’s extremely difficult to convict poachers even if they are caught red-handed.

More than 1,300 trophies of red, fallow and roe deer were found in the home of a 45-year-old man in a village outside Brno, in south Moravia, in 2005. Prosecutors charged him with poaching, and said he caused 10 million crowns, or more than 510,000 US dollars, worth of damage. This could mean a jail sentence of up to five years.

But four years later, a local court freed the man of the charges due to lack of evidence. The man said he inherited most of his collection of trophies from his father, a claim supported by several witnesses. On Tuesday, an appellate court confirmed the verdict and let the man walk free.

According to Josef Pubal from the Czech Hunters’ Association, the case highlights a gap in Czech law.

“It just illustrates the current state of affairs when it’s next to impossible to prove that someone has been poaching. Even if you catch the poacher red-handed, the current legal situation provides very limited opportunities to convict someone of poaching.”

According to Mr Pubal, the new Czech Penal Code, which came into force in January 2010, makes it easier for poachers to avoid prosecution.

“The current Penal Code, which has been in force for a short time, makes it easier for poachers because of one word. Previously, it said ‘he who hunts game’ will be considered a poacher, whereas now it says “he who hunts down game”. That means that in the past, people could be prosecuted just for the intention to hunt game. But now, only those who complete the act may be charged.”

Konopiště Chateau,  photo: CzechTourism
The man first got into trouble five years ago after he had a row with his wife, got drunk and went on a shooting rampage with his illegally-owned hunting rifle.

No one was hurt in the incident which landed him a three-year sentence, most of which he served.

The collector of trophies – a rare hobby, says Mr Pubal, for someone who does not hunt as well – now wants his collection back from the police. The “King of Poachers” would like to exhibit it one day – and for a good reason. It exceeds some of the largest Czech collections of its kind, including that of Konopiště Chateau where Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este gathered a mere 800 hunting trophies.