Scallop Fishermen Not Guilty
In a trial that was heard before Waterford Circuit Criminal Court on the 17th and 18th of November, a Dunmore East fisherman was accused of fishing for scallops while not in the possession of an authorization to do so.
The incident dated back to May 2006 when the authorization scheme for scallop fishing had commenced. The position was that the Department had chosen only to notify those who has received authorizations that they were successful in doing so and all other applicants received no communication from the Department.
The Dunmore East fishermen had avoided fishing for scallops while he sought clarification and during a routine boarding, he asked the boarding officer whether or not he had the right to fish for scallops.
It came up in the context of a general conversation about how other fishermen were doing. The Naval officer commented that the other vessels that he had been on were doing very well ‘at the scollop’s’.
In evidence, the Fisherman contended that the naval officer had told him that there was no difficulty or reason why he could not fish for scallops with the license that he held. The license of course referred to dredging as an authorized method of fishing.
On hearing this the Skipper decided to immediately head to port to change its gear and a few days later commenced fishing for scallops.
After a few days fishing he arrived back in port, landed the scallops and filed the log book pages in the cubbyhole for the SFPA and completed his landing declaration. Some days afterwards, a Sea Fishery Protection Officer approached the Fisherman and asked him about the log book entries.
It was contended by the State that our Client, at that point, received a caution. However, we maintained that in fact the Sea Fishery Protection Officer challenged him on the log book entry and then when our Client confirmed that he had run this past a naval officer. He explained that the Naval officer had indicated that he could go fishing for scollop’s and that the Fisheries inspector left it at that.
Subsequently, on another fishing trip,the vessel was again routinely boarded but this time arrested for failing to have an authorization.
Yesterday, at Waterford Circuit Criminal Court, a jury of 12 people, found, by way of a majority verdict, that our Client had not committed and offence and was innocent of the charge.
Legal submissions were entered on behalf of our Client as to the defenses’ open to the accused in both the context of ordinary criminal charges but also, under the Sea Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction act of 2006, itself. In one of the first rulings of it’s type it was held by the trial Judge that, in this instance, the Act itself afforded a possible grounds for a defense to the charge our Client was facing.
Earlier in the trial, free legal aid had been applied for and granted.
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