Poole fisherman found guilty of Failure to Comply a direction reasonably given by Southern IFCA Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officers
On Thursday, 27 January 2022 at Poole Magistrates Court, Poole fisherman Geoffrey Bennett was found guilty of failing without reasonable excuse to comply with a direction reasonably given by Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officers from the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (Southern IFCA) and was ordered to pay costs and fines totalling £16,180.
The court heard how during the afternoon of Thursday, 3 September 2020 in Poole Harbour, Geoffrey Bennett returned from fishing aboard his vessel PE443 Sea Turkey. Officers saw Mr. Bennett travel from the direction of Rockley Spit to bring his fishing vessel alongside the quay wall in front of the slipway at Rockley Boat Park Marina. Once alongside the quay wall Mr. Bennett dropped off his crewman who walked to a van parked nearby. The crewman opened the rear doors of the van and reversed to meet the bow of Mr. Bennett’s fishing boat.
The officers in attendance moved to carry out an inspection of Mr. Bennett’s catch, but on seeing the officers Mr. Bennett reversed away from the quay wall and the crewman sped away with the rear doors of the van still open. The Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Officers were well known to Mr. Bennett. They stood on the quay wall near to Mr. Bennett issuing numerous directions asking Mr. Bennett to stop to allow an inspection of his catch, but these directions were ignored by Mr. Bennett who drove his vessel under Rockley Bridge and into Lytchett Bay. The officers could see a large quantity of manila clams (with an estimated weight of 425kg and a first sale value of between £1,275 and £1,487.50) situated on the deck of the fishing vessel. Most of the incident was captured on the body worn cameras of the officers attending.
At court Mr. Bennett said that he had not seen the officers or heard their directions. He told the court that he needed to get away in a hurry because of the poor weather conditions and the risk of damage to his boat if he left it there. The court did not find Mr. Bennett’s account credible, and he was found guilty of two charges of Failing to Comply with officers. Mr. Bennett was fined £6,000, ordered to pay prosecution costs of £10,000 and a victim surcharge of £180.
When asked to comment, Deputy Chief Officer Sam Dell said, “This case sends a clear message that failing to comply with the Authority’s officers will not be tolerated. The Marine and Coastal Access Act gives our officers common enforcement powers to carry out inspections. It provides robust legislation to protect officers against this type of misconduct. The Southern IFCA is committed to protecting the fishery to ensure healthy seas and a viable industry. By taking offenders to court we aim to support a sustainable local fishery.”