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Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT) Ltd, a company set up by dealers and collectors to fight the act’s near-total ban on trade in antique ivory, said it is determined to take the case to the final stage. It will need to raise further funds – as much as £100,000 – to move its case to the Supreme Court.

On May 18, Court of Appeal judges dismissed FACT’s arguments that the act’s ban breaches European Union rules and disproportionately interferes with the free movement of goods.

That appeal was against a High Court ruling by Mr Justice Robert Jay in October 2019.

DEFRA, the defendant in both appeals, welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling “which upholds the High Court’s decision and dismisses the claim against the Ivory Act.

“We are committed to bringing the ivory ban into force as soon as practicable to help protect the world’s endangered species and halt biodiversity loss.”

The law is likely to come into force quickly once all legal challenges have been exhausted.

FACT director Alastair Gibson said that, if granted permission to move the case to the Supreme Court, it would need “more donations of financial support… a further £100,000”.

If the Court of Appeal rejects FACT’s request to proceed to the Supreme Court, Gibson said the group had “done everything we can to stop this ban and that is the intention – to be able to say we stood up for the antiques trade”.

He added that “through BADA, LAPADA and BAMF we’re ensuring we have a louder voice when talking to the government, which has not properly considered the cultural impact of this ban”.

We can say we stood up for the antiques trade

Narrow exemptions

The appeal followed a High Court hearing last year. The Ivory Act 2018 is a near-total ban on the trade in elephant ivory with a handful of narrow exemptions for museum-quality objects, portrait miniatures and objects of more than 100 years old that contain less than 10% ivory (for details see ATG’s special online guide via atg.news/UKIvoryban). Richard Pike, partner at Constantine Cannon, the law firm acting for FACT, said: “The Appeals judges basically agreed with the High Court judgment. It’s not what we hoped for, but it is what we expected.”

Antiques trade bodies have fought for years to preserve the trade in ivory objects worked prior to 1947, citing the lack of evidence connecting modern poaching to antiques. FACT has argued the “legitimate trade in antique cultural objects has no bearing on the abhorrent practice of elephant poaching and the illicit trade”.

The Court of Appeal judgment is the latest stage in a long fight by the trade to stop the act, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, from coming into force.