D. P. Barry & Co. recently represented Gerrit Plug, the Master of the Dutch registered vessel, the Annelies Ilena, before Donegal Circuit Court where he was charged with six offences relating to illegal fishing. The jury trial took three days during which three of the six charges (including the main charge of high grading) were struck out following legal argument. The Master was convicted on three technical charges. The Prosecution sought fines and confiscation of the catch and gear which it valued in the region of €6,000,000. However, following further extensive legal argument, His Honour Judge O’Hagan, refused to make a Forfeiture Order and imposed fines totaling €105,000.
Welcoming the decision, Diarmuid Barry said:-
“This process began on 22 November 2013 when the vessel was boarded by a joint SFPA/Naval inspection team. The Master and vessel were arrested and a Detention Order was granted by a special sitting of the District Court for 48 hours. In a subsequent sitting of the District Court in Donegal Town, the DPP sought a Bond of €6,000,000 to secure the vessel’s release. The amount of the Bond sought was strongly contested by me and I pointed out to the Court that it had discretion in the matter and Judge Kevin Kilraine sitting, fixed the Bond in the sum of €250,000. The DPP sought to judicially review the decision of the District Court before an emergency sitting of the High Court, presided over by the President, who refused the application. Considering the value of the fish was between €20 and €30, the case highlights how increasingly difficult EU fishing regulations impact on fishermen, regardless of the size of the vessel.”