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Penalty points scheme for fishermen in chaos

February 5th, 2016 11:55 AM

By Southern Star Team

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FISHERMEN who have previously received penalty points can appeal to get them removed and may be able to seek financial redress over lost earnings if forced to tie up under the scheme after a second High Court judge ruled against the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) and the Minister for the Marine over the manner in which fishermen were treated by the system.

The High Court has declared the manner in which penalty points were imposed on the licence of a sea-fishing vessel over an under-recorded catch was contrary to fair procedures. The latest decision by Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley’s, affecting a company which owns a vessel called the ‘Anders Nees,’ reports The Skipper magazine, followed another High Court ruling less than two weeks ago striking down the entire penalty point system for fishing vessels.

In a recent court decision, Mr Justice Tony O’Connor said the scheme introduced by the Minister of the Marine does not require that established systems for independent adjudication and recourse to the courts can be ignored. He was to make final orders this week in that case, involving the West Cork trawler, the ‘Tea Rose.’

In the meantime, Ms Justice O’Malley delivered her judgment in the case taken by the firm, which owns the ‘Anders Nees,’ the Crayden Fishing Company. She said that, as there was no challenge to the validity of the regulations in this case, she was going to proceed with her judgment on the question of fairness of procedures.

On January 15th last, the High Court had struck down the penalty points signed into law by Minister Simon Coveney under Statutory Instrument SI 3 of 2014 entitled ‘European Union (Common Fisheries Policy) (Points System) Regulations 2014.’ That High Court case involving vessel owner and the master of the fishing vessel, the ‘Tea Rose’ (Paddy and Cathal O’Sullivan, respectively), represented by Conways Solicitors, successfully challenged the penalty points issued after the vessel was detained in or around April 8th, 2015. 

Notwithstanding the fact that the master was charged with alleged fishing offences and a plea of not guilty indicated, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) refused to wait and see what happened with the criminal process and insisted that they had to proceed under the SI ‘as soon as may be.’

An application was immediately made before the High Court in Dublin to get an injunction prohibiting the SFPA from starting the penalty points procedure. In addition, the Court was asked to, not only stop the procedure, but to examine the procedures that were created under the 2014 SI and, in addition, it was questioned as to whether or not the Minister had exceeded the authority given to him under the 1972 European Communities Act, which allows a Minister to sign an SI to bring a European Regulation into Irish law without having to pass an Act of the Oireachtas. 

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