On 12 October 2016 Richard Matthews (owner and master of the under 10 metre vessel the Anna Gail) pleaded guilty of fisheries offences at Norwich Magistrates Court.
The court heard how, on 26 October 2015, an inspection of Mr Matthews’ catch was carried out by officers from the MMO and Eastern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (EIFCA) during which an offence under the Fisheries Act 1981 were detected.
Mr Matthews’ catch of lobsters was inspected and measured and found to be above the minimum size and in accordance with the relevant legislation. However, after Mr Matthews left the area a further two concealed boxes were detected on his vessel, each containing lobsters which were found to be under the minimum landing size.
When Mr Matthews returned to the vessel later in the day the officers approached him about the concealed lobster boxes. They instructed Mr Matthews that they wanted to inspect the additional boxes, at which point he got into his motor vehicle with the boxes and tried to make off from scene. The vehicle became stuck in the shingle beach and he then alighted, made off down the beach with the lobsters and attempted to dispose of the contents of the boxes back into the sea. It is a criminal offence under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to fail to comply with a request made by a marine enforcement officer.
Mr Matthews pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and the court sentenced him to a 12 month conditional discharge, meaning that if any further offences are committed in that period the court can resentence these offences. He was ordered to pay the costs of bringing the case in full, totaling £1,255,and a victim surcharge of £15.
A spokesman for the MMO said:
“The fact that this case was pursued through to prosecution by the MMO sends out a strong, clear message that failure to comply with a requirement or direction reasonably made by an officer will be treated with the upmost seriousness by the MMO”.