The court heard how the fishermen were accused of the retention and landing of a Harbour Porpoise contrary to the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010 (The regulations) Section 41(3).
In late December 2014 the MMO received a complaint from a witness alleging that David and James Chambers had on 6 April 2014 caught, retained and landed a harbour porpoise. The witness provided some photographic evidence and was supported by another witness. Neither defendant was prepared to be interviewed about the incident.
After a thorough investigation of the allegation the MMO decided that there was sufficient credible evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and that a prosecution was in the public interest, particularly as the Harbour Porpoise is a protected species under the legislation.
Both prosecution witnesses gave evidence at the trial that the porpoise had been caught in the nets of the Chambers’ boat, the Norfolk Girl, that it had been landed and taken back to the defendants business premises where it had been kicked around the yard by James Chambers. Both witnesses said that they were telling the truth. Both defendants then gave evidence that the porpoise had been accidentally caught in the boats nets but that it was released back into the sea unharmed. They said that they had taken a photograph of it as it was “unusual” to see a porpoise. They denied the porpoise had been taken back to the business premises or kicked as alleged. Both men accused the prosecution witnesses of telling lies motivated by a previous disagreement. Having carefully considered all the evidence the Magistrates decided that there were some inconsistencies in the prosecution witnesses evidence and so they could not be satisfied so they were sure of the defendant’s guilt. The MMO is disappointed with the result but respects the Court’s decision.
A spokesman for the MMO said: “The MMO has a responsibility to investigate any allegations of offending to help protect marine wildlife.The MMO will not hesitate to bring proceedings where it considers there is sufficient evidence and it is in the public interest to do so. Ultimately the MMO was unsuccesful in proving this case to the high criminal standard, however it was correct for the MMO to pursue the matter in court”.