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The Court of Appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand.

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A judgment was published today (May 18) following the appeal on February 24-25 by lawyers for Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures (FACT) Ltd.

The appeal followed a High Court hearing last year. The Ivory Act 2018 is a near-total ban on the trade in ivory with a handful of narrow exemptions (see below).

The decision on the case, The Friends of Antique Cultural Treasures Ltd -v- DEFRA, can be viewed via www.judiciary.uk.

Richard Pike, partner at Constantine Cannon, the law firm acting for FACT, said: “The Court of Appeal judges basically agreed with the previous [High Court] judgment. It's not what we hoped for, but it is what we expected. We've got seven days to seek permission to appeal - and there is a possibility that this will happen.'

FACT will meet this week to discuss its next steps.

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FACT directors outside the Royal Courts of Justice after the October 2019 hearing: (left to right) Paul Moss, former owner of Sydney L. Moss, Rosemary Bandini and Alastair Gibson, Gibson Antiques.

A Defra spokesperson said: “We welcome 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.”

Antiques trade bodies have fought for years to preserve the trade in antique ivory, citing the lack of evidence connecting modern poached ivory with the antique variety.

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 case is possibly the final chapter in a long fight by the trade to stop the act, which received Royal Assent in December 2018, from coming into force.

  • Items comprised of less than 10% ivory by volume made prior to 1947
  • Musical instruments with an ivory content of less than 20% and made before 1975
  • Portrait miniatures made before 1918
  • Sales to and between accredited museums.
  • Items of outstanding artistic, cultural or historic significance, made prior to 1918, the trade in which will be subject to the advice of specialists at institutions such as the UK’s most prestigious museums.

Source: gov.uk

In February, Pike advised that dealers and collectors “should prepare to sell antique ivory quickly” and “take action now to protect the value of their collections, including moving items overseas where practicable...”

Another lawyer gave his view on the current situation. Art market lawyer Tim Maxwell, partner at Charles Russell Speechlys, said: “While the narrow exemptions are said to be designed to remove uncertainties around what is permissible, the current de minimis threshold and boundaries are slightly blurred. It remains to be seen whether the art trade will take the case to the Supreme Court, but in any event an effective system should be established to give effect to the regulatory mechanisms of the act.”