Anglers off the hook after 'English' prosecution for fishing Scots river
TWO anglers were found guilty yesterday of fishing on a Scottish river without an English rod licence - but were let off the hook by a sheriff.
• Ross Blackie, left, and Brian Scott were both convicted of fishing without an English rod licence on the Liddle Water
Brian Scott, 45, was admonished and 31-year-old Ross Blaikie received an absolute discharge following the legal test case on controversial cross-border fishing rights at Jedburgh Sheriff Court.
Both fishermen from the village of Newcastleton, Roxburghshire, had 10 day permits granted by the Esk and Liddle Fisheries Association to fish on 20 August 2009 when they were swooped on by fisheries officers from the Environment Agency.
They were prosecuted because they did not have a valid 6-a-day rod licence to cover fishing on the Liddle Water - an Esk tributary - from the Environment Agency, which is responsible for rivers in England and Wales.
The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act has included the Esk and its tributaries for many years - despite much of the rivers being in Scotland - but it is only since 2005 that the Environment Agency said it would enforce the legislation north of the Border.
That brought a furious reaction from Scottish fishermen and a protest on the river bank.
But there have been no prosecutions until the cases against Scott and Blaikie yesterday.
Following a three-hour trial Scott was found guilty of fishing on the Liddle Water without a rod licence. As a result of the conviction, Blaikie changed his plea to guilty.
But Sheriff Drummond recognised there were issues in the case that allowed him to deal with the matter leniently.
He also hinted that there seemed to be scope for the Environment Agency within the legislation to resolve the matter and appease the local community, as the rod licence fee could be waived if there was an economic impact on a rural area.
He said he could not grant Scott an absolute discharge - which would mean the case left no criminal record - because he already had a conviction for poaching dating back to 2001 on another Scottish river. The sheriff instead admonished Scott.
But he gave an absolute discharge to Blaikie, who had previously been sent a warning letter by the Environment Agency for fishing on the Liddle Water without a rod licence.
Passing sentence Sheriff Drummond told Scott: "I am bearing in mind you are from Newcastleton and have fished that particular water in the past. There was no attempt at deception but there was a confrontation of these local issues and I intend to admonish you."
During the trial Buccleuch Estates fisheries manager Ian Bell, 52, gave evidence where he described the situation as "unclear".
He added that when he worked for the Environment Agency it did not enforce the rod licences on the Scottish side of the Border Esk.
He said: "Sometimes they said they did, sometimes they said they didn't. It is a bit confusing."
Mr Bell added that he received letters from "Disgruntled of York" and others saying they had been told by the Environment Agency they did not require rod licences for that stretch of the water.
The River Esk rises in the mountains east of Moffat, Dumfriesshire, and flows past Langholm before merging with the Liddle Water, which defines the Scottish-English Border. It then crosses the Border and merges with the River Lyne, entering the Solway Firth in England. The Liddle Water emanates in Scotland.
The Environment Agency rod licence is required for fishing on all rivers in England and Wales but Scottish rivers have separate rules.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West