The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has conducted a major overhaul of the penalty points process following a recent decision of the Supreme Court.

The European Union (Common Fisheries Policy) (Point System) Regulations 2018 establishes a penalty points system which will apply to the Licence Holder of a sea-fishing boat when a serious infringement of the Common Fisheries Policy is detected within the Exclusive Fishery limits of the State or for an Irish vessel, wherever it may be.

Where an Official detects an alleged serious infringement, he or she shall prepare a report and forward it to the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA).

The SFPA will then send the send the report and any relevant material to the Determination Panel to determine if a serious infringement has occurred. The SFPA will also send a copy of this material to the Licence Holder. The Licence Holder will have 10 working days from the date of notification to make submissions in writing to the Determination Panel. The Determination Panel, may decide to conduct an oral hearing for the purposes of the determination. The Determination Panel is required to issue its decision within 35 working days. The Determination Panel will communicate their determination and reasons for their determination to the SFPA.

Where the Determination Panel determines that a serious infringement has occurred, the SFPA shall notify the Licence Holder of the decision of the Determination Panel and its proposal to assign penalty points. The Licence Holder has 20 working days from the date of this notification to appeal the decision to an Appeals Officer. The appeal must be in writing and a request for an oral hearing must be made within 10 working days of the appeal being made. The Appeals Officer must make his or her decision within 30 days, with the possibility of an additional 15 days extension in exceptional circumstances.

A Licence Holder may only appeal the decision of the Appeals Officer to the High Court on a point of law. Such an appeal must be made not later than 14 days after the notification to the parties of the decision of the Appeals Officer.

“Given the grave consequences of penalty points for fishermen and the extremely short deadlines involved in the penalty points process, it is vital that fishermen secure expert legal assistance as soon as the process is commenced. DP Barry & Co Solicitors have represented fishermen at all stages of the penalty points process. We initiated that first oral hearing under the penalty points scheme which resulted in a successful High Court appeal.”

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