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Anthony Vines appears in successful Welsh Government fisheries prosecution

Anthony Vines, instructed by Justin Davies and Leah Ellison of Hugh James solicitors on behalf of the Counsel General of Wales, recently successfully prosecuted a fishing vessel’s owner and its skipper for various fishery offences in a 3-day trial before DJ James at Swansea Magistrates Court.

The defendants were the company owner of the vessel and the skipper on each of 5 episodes of unlawful fishing.  In respect of each trip, the defendants were prosecuted both for a failure to make the requisite daily submission of Fishing Activity Reports (the reporting offences) and for fishing in Welsh waters with a vessel beyond the permitted maximum vessel size (the byelaw offences).

The fishing was being undertaken in the waters surrounding the coast of South Wales which was formerly the area of the South Wales Sea Fisheries District, more specifically, east of the bay closing line  across the Severn Estuary.  The byelaw offences were contrary to s5(1) of the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 and The Marine and Coastal Access 2009 (Commencement No. 1, Consequential, Transitional and Savings Provisions) (England and Wales) Order 2010.  The reporting offences were contrary to s.30 of the Fisheries Act 1981 by breaching the requirements of the relevant EU legislation being the Commission Implementing Regulation 404/2011 and the Council Regulation (EC) 1224/2009.

Following conviction, the Court adjourned sentence for the provision of financial information.

In accordance with the Court of Appeal view expressed by Kay LJ in Ramosa (2004), the District Judge reiterated that the regulations are a vital part of the regulatory structure to control the fishing industry.  This was also the reason why deterrent sentences are passed.

Following the stepped approach set out in the definitive guidelines for sentencing environmental offences, the District Judge found that on the issue of culpability, the initial byelaw offences were committed by the company owner negligently and the last offence, which occurred during the earlier proceedings, deliberately.  He assessed the harm element as Category 3.  The reporting offences were committed with low culpability and category 4 harm.  The company being of a “micro” scale, with turnover of not more than £2 million, the District Judge imposed upon the company fines totalling £18,000 (4 x £2,000 and 1 x £9,000; 5 x £200) and costs of £14,475.70.  The company was given 3 months to pay.

The District Judge concluded that the skipper had been negligent in the commission of the first 4 byelaw offences but deliberate in the last.  The District Judge viewed the reporting offences as against the skipper similarly to the company.  He was fined £3,480 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.