A SOMERSET landowner has been fined after threatening two National England officers.

On May 27, 2021, officers were called to investigate reports of unconsented activities within the Wet Moor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) near Langport.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest are areas of land and water that are considered to represent the most important areas of our natural heritage and provide a home for many of England’s rarest plants and animals.

The landowner, John Holland Junior, 57, obstructed and intimidated the officers, who were left feeling scared and intimidated, the courts heard.

Mr Holland, of Tapmoor, Moorlinch, pleaded guilty when he appeared before North Somerset Magistrates’ Court in Weston-super-Mare.

He was fined £700 plus a victim’s surcharge of £70 and ordered to repay £2,787.50 in prosecution costs, bringing the total to £3,557.50.

The defendant has also appeared at Taunton Crown Court where he pleaded guilty to two offences under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 relating to conducting damaging activities within the Wet Moor SSSI without Natural England’s consent. He will be sentenced for those offences at a later date.

The court heard how the defendant physically obstructed the officers from entering La lade caravan site in Long Load, despite being informed they had a statutory power of entry to the land.

The defendant then became abusive and aggressive, swearing repeatedly at the officers before taking his top off, approaching them with his fists clenched and threatening to fight them.

In sentencing, the court dismissed the defendant’s argument that this was a minor offence, stating he had "intentionally chosen to be verbally and physically intimidating to two individuals just doing their job, which clearly had a lasting psychological impact.”

Rachel Williams, Natural England's Deputy Director for Wessex, said: “We always seek to work in partnership with landowners and where we receive reports of damaging activities within SSSIs we have a statutory duty to investigate. 

“This sentence serves as a stark reminder that neither Natural England nor the courts will  tolerate abuse of any form towards our hard-working staff, and we will take enforcement action where necessary to protect these important sites.”