Court fines Collier Row woman caught picking mushrooms in ancient forest

Epping Forest

Epping Forest - Credit: Archant

A Collier Row woman who tried to save on her household bills by foraging for mushrooms in Epping Forest has paid a high price for the dinner table delicacy she never even got to eat.

Sonata Sluizaite has been told to pay £364 after unwittingly picking mushrooms illegally in a protected area of the forest.

Sluizaite, of Bower Close, pleaded guilty by letter to breaking a bylaw by removing the fungi on September 21 last year at Genesis Slade, Theydon Bois.

Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court fined her £80 and ordered her to pay £284 in court costs.

The court heard that forest constable Glen Mulleady caught Sluizaite putting a carrier bag full of mushrooms into a rucksack in the forest’s ancient Genesis Slade.

When approached she told him that picking mushrooms was allowed in her home country of Lithuania and she didn’t know it was banned in the forest.

Mr Mulleady said he confiscated a total of three full bags, which he believed they were for Sluizaite’s personal use.

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The court was told that there are signs warning that picking the fungi is against forest bylaws.

The prosecutor said many people illegally picked fungi for their own use but claimed is also a growing issue with them being sold on to markets and restaurants.

“A single fungi off a tree can go for £100,” he added.

In a letter to the court, Sluizaite said children in Lithuania commonly go foraging with their parents.

“I didn’t know I was doing anything wrong. We were going to eat them ourselves. I now have a criminal record for an innocent mistake,” she wrote.

She added that she hadn’t seen any signs banning mushroom picking.