Bodycam footage (pictured above) taken by officers from the Southern IFCA was a key piece of evidence provided to Poole Magistrates’ Court at a hearing on 27 January.
Geoffrey Bennett was found guilty of failing without reasonable excuse to comply with a direction reasonably given by IFCA officers.
Officers provided evidence to the court that on 3 September, 2020 in Poole Harbour, Mr Bennett returned from fishing aboard his vessel Sea Turkey PE 443 to the quay wall in front of the slipway at Rockley Boat Park Marina. Once alongside, Mr Bennett dropped off his crewman who walked to a van parked nearby.
When the officers went to inspect the vessel, the crewman drove away in the van, and Mr Bennett sailed his vessel away from the quay wall, in spite of the SIFCA officers issuing numerous directions asking him to stop to allow an inspection of his catch.
The officers saw 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, on the deck of the fishing vessel. The clams were clearly visible in the bodycam footage that was provided to the court.
Mr Bennett claimed in court that he had not seen the officers or heard their directions.
On reviewing the evidence available, the court did not find Mr Bennett’s account credible. He was found guilty of two charges of failing to comply with officers. He was fined £6,000, and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £10,000 and a victim surcharge of £180.
Commenting on the prosecution, SIFCA’s 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.”