A PARROT breeder's five-year legal battle with HM Customs and Excise has continued in court.

Harry Sissen, 66, appeared before Northallerton magistrates last Friday for failing to pay a £150,000 court order made after he was convicted of smuggling rare macaws in 2000.

Mr Sissen, of Cornhill Farm, East Cowton, was released from prison in January after spending three and a half months of a 21-month sentence behind bars when he paid £50,000 towards the order.

However, a barrister for Customs and Excise told him he still had to pay £100,000, plus interest of approximately £30,000.

During a heated hour-long hearing, the farmer repeatedly declared his innocence and told the court he had no money to pay the outstanding amount.

"People have hung themselves for less stress than I have suffered," he told the magistrates.

"I promised my birds I would fight these people until I die and I will."

The court ordered Mr Sissen to produce documents explaining the ownership arrangements of five farms belonging to the breeder's family.

The birdlover said the land was owned by himself and two other members of his family who were unwilling to sell-up and release the money to pay the order.

Mr Sissen spent eight months behind bars after the original conviction in 2000.

In April 2003, Newcastle Crown Court ordered 140 of the breeder's birds to be seized by Customs and Excise officers.

Since then, more than 60 of the birds have died.

The case was adjourned until April 21.