ONE of Britain's most notorious egg thieves has become the first person to be served with an ASBO that bans him from coming to Scotland during the bird nesting season for the next 10 years.

The measure was imposed on Matthew Gonshaw, 49, of Bow, London yesterday at Stratford Magistrates' Court in London because of his repeated previous trips north to take eggs of species such as golden eagles and ospreys.

He was arrested in June last year on the island of Rum, in the Hebrides, for stealing wild bird eggs, including those of these two important species.

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Specialist wildlife crime officers from Scotland Yard and RSPB personnel searched his London home, and found a collection of more than 700 eggs as well as maps, climbing equipment and camouflage clothes.

He was jailed for six months at Thames Magistrates' Court on that occasion, after admitting 10 offences and it was also decided then to pursue an ASBO.

He had been jailed for similar offences in 2002 and twice again in 2005.

Yesterday, he also became the first person in England to receive an ASBO for crimes against nature because of the damage he had wreaked on rare birds by stealing their eggs.

For the next 10 years, the maximum ASBO term, he will be prevented from travelling to Scotland from February 1 to August 31 when the birds are nesting.

He is further prevented from visiting all RSPB and Wildlife Trust land for the next 10 years.

The ASBO also strengthens the penalties for any future wildlife crimes.

Instead of the £5000 maximum fine and six months imprisonment that can be imposed under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, Gonshaw could receive a £20,000 fine and a five-year jail term for breaking the conditions of the ASBO.

RSPB Scotland's head of investigations, Ian Thomson, said: "Matthew Gonshaw is a serial criminal, and has repeatedly targeted the eggs of some of our rarest species.

"Over decades he has plundered hundreds of birds' nests, feeding his selfish desire to add to his egg collection.

"We welcome this decision by the English courts for the strong signal it sends out, and as an effective measure to protect our breeding birds.

"Gonshaw is, in fact, due to appear at Inverness Sheriff Court on March 8 facing charges relating to the theft of wild birds' eggs in Scotland only last year.

"If Gonshaw breaks the ASBO's terms then he could return to prison for up to five years. Already being the only man in England to be denied the joy of visiting our nature reserves, he must surely realise that it's now time to give it up and leave the birds alone."

Gonshaw is currently serving his fourth prison sentence for egg collecting and holds the record in the UK for the person who has spent the most time in prison for these crimes.

At the hearing in December, he was described by prosecutors as one of the UK's most active and persistent egg thieves, who had been responsible for unprecedented thefts from osprey and golden eagle nests.

They said he was a loner with an encyclopaedic knowledge of wild birds.

Some of the golden eagle eggs were stolen just before the birds had been due to hatch, thereby killing almost full-term chicks.