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Judge cuts levies on fishing offenders

Western Morning News

3rd September 2005
A Brixham trawler company and a fishing boat owner have been saved from going out of business after having levies imposed on them slashed on appeal.

Exeter Crown Court heard that the Barentszee Fishing Company and trawler owner John Hingley repeatedly and deliberately falsified logs of recorded catches.

At Totnes Magistrates' Court, Barentszee admitted eight charges of falsifying logs and was fined £10,000 with £3,000 costs.  A levy of £42,400 - the sale price of the fish - was also imposed on the company.

Hingley admitted 13 offences of falsifying logs and three of tampering with satellite transmitting devices designed to show where his boat was.  He was fined £800 with £1,500 costs, and a levy of £45,819 was imposed on him.

In opposing the appeal, Martin Edmunds said that in the case of Barentszee the logs were falsified on eight trips, and the false records related to catches of sole.  The logs showed the fish had been caught in one area when in fact they had been caught in another, which meant there were breaches of the quota system.

In Hingley's case, the logs were falsified on 13 trips and there were three breaches regarding satellite transmitting equipment.  This was meant to show the position of boats every two hours, but it was tampered with so that the authorities did not know where the boat was for a whole night.

David Evans, for the appellants, said the fines and levies were grossly disproportionate to the extent of the offending and the resources available to pay.

"The practical effect is that these levies will destroy a good part of the fishing industry in the South West because neither party can afford to pay, and consequently they will go out of business," he said.  "That is not a threat - it is a commercial reality."

He told the court it was not a case of "black fish" being caught illegally, brought ashore secretly and sold for cash.  The fish caught in these cases had been logged and sold through auctions.  He suggested that the levy should be on the net profit, not the sale value.

Judge John Storey QC said: "These were repeated and deliberate offences over a long period.”  But he added that, as the company and Hingley would go out of business, he had decided that both defendants should only pay 75 per cent of the amounts levied on them.  The fines and costs would remain the same.

This means Barentszee Fishing Company will save £10,600 and Hingley will save £14,965.