Burnmouth fisherman’s £10,000 fine overturned on appeal

BURNMOUTH fisherman John Affleck has successfully appealed a £10,000 fine he was given for breaching Northumberland fishing bylaws.

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court replaced the £10,000 fine with a six-month conditional discharge on each offence to run concurrently. Mr Affleck’s appeal costs were paid from central funds but he has to pay the £896 costs imposed by North Shields Magistrates Court when the case was first heard in January this year.

It was accepted by the Crown Court that the circumstances of the two offences that Mr Affleck pleaded guilty to were technical breaches of the by-laws. He had originally been fined £6,000 for having edible crab in pots placed at Goswick and £4,000 for having no tags on seven of the pots.

Mr Affleck, a crab and lobster fisherman for over 25 years, told the court he had moved the pots from their original position north of the border (where it is not illegal to use brown crab as bait) south to Goswick because some of them had been damaged and he did not want to leave them where they were and risk more being damaged. When he went to retrieve them the next day he could not find them and after searching for some time he contacted Northumberland Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (NIFCA) to report them missing only to be told that they had picked them up.

He was interviewed and charged with the two offences.

The NIFCA by-laws are designed as conservation measures. In giving his judgement His Honour Judge Friedman indicated that the range of offences vary greatly from fishing without permits or using pots in excess of legal limits to ensuring equipment is properly marked to ensure proper policing of the by-laws. As for the offence of having missing NIFCA tags, the court accepted Mr Affleck’s explanation of having to replace a number of pots when they had been damaged as the number of pots with missing tags was less than 10 per cent of the pots being used.