Hitchhiker fined £2.8k for smuggling cat

AN ECCENTRIC world hitchhiking champion from Kesgrave today landed himself in court for smuggling a Lithuanian kitten into the UK in a hold-all.Dutch-born Robert Prins admitted deliberately smuggling the seven-month-old black, white tanned cat from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius via a cross channel ferry avoiding the UK rabies laws.

By Amanda Cresswell

AN ECCENTRIC world hitch hiking champion from Kesgrave today landed himself in court for smuggling a Lithuanian kitten into the UK in a hold-all.

Dutch-born Robert Prins admitted deliberately smuggling the seven-month-old black, white tanned cat from the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius via a cross channel ferry avoiding the UK rabies laws.

Jennifer Alexander, prosecuting on behalf of Suffolk County Council Trading Standards, told the court Prins was rumbled by neighbours after boasting he could easily smuggle the cat from Eastern Europe.

The court heard Prins, an IT consultant from Lummis Vale, first lied to officers investigating the case before admitting bringing the kitten, called Smispel, under sedation into the UK.

She told how he carried the cat in a hold-all and took it for walks on a piece of string as he hitch-hiked around Europe. Prins's bizarre 50-hour journey covered 1,500 miles.

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But the 42-year-old is used to long journeys as he holds the Guinness World Record for hitch hiking covering 1,440 miles in 24 hours in four lifts as he hitched from Yugoslavia to Hamburg.

Prins, who represented himself, said his Lithuanian wife, Audrone, 44, was missing her animals and desperately wanted a cat. "We have been trying since May last year to get a kitten from the RSPCA and other organisations," he said.

He took a shine to the cat, which was being looked after in the Botanical Gardens in Lithuania and bought it home to look after it. He told the court he had the cat inoculated.

Vicky Sears, bench chairwoman, sentenced him to a £1,000 fine and ordered him to pay £1,800 costs.

She said: "You deliberately smuggled the cat into the country knowingly contravening our laws. The aggravating features was that you avoided the truth to officers in the first interview."

Outside the court Prins, said: "When I was walking I took the cat out of the bag and had her on a piece of string so she could walk,"

Roger Hopkins, assistant community trading standards officer, said: "The sentence reflects the seriousness of the offence. He deliberately tried to smuggle an animal into the UK to avoid the anti-rabies law. It is a serious offence and the court recognises that.

"You know the foot and mouth epidemic but the rabies is much worse because it affects every red blooded animal. He wasted a lot of time by lying and it took three lots of interviews to admit the offence."

Praising the neighbours who reported him, he said: "We rely on the eyes and ears of the community and would encourage people to be more vigilant."

The maximum sentence for smuggling an animal into the UK to avoid the laws is £5,000 fine with prison also an option.

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