Section 16, as it stands, imposes penalties for the purchasing, sale, etc. or having in possession salmon or trout which are unseasonable or unlawfully captured. In the case of unseasonable fish the common carrier is provided with a defence by sub-section 1 (b) and in the case of fish unlawfully captured the defendant if a common carrier must prove that he had the fish in his possession only as a common carrier and must produce a certificate from the owner of the fish to the effect that the fish was lawfully captured. Persons other than common carriers must prove in the manner set out in sub-sections (d) and (e) that the fish were lawfully captured. The amendment provides an additional defence for the defendant by stipulating that it will be a good defence on his part to prove that the fish was purchased by him from a licensed salmon dealer.
Fisheries (Statute Law Revision) Bill, 1956—Report and Final Stages.
Would I be in order in raising a point on Section 16?
Section 16 is agreed to, but later the Senator will have an opportunity of speaking.
Thank you, Sir.
Section 23, as it stands, declares that for the avoidance of doubts the fisheries of the Foyle Area which are vested jointly in the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister of Commerce, Belfast, under the Foyle Fisheries Act, 1952 and the corresponding Six County Act, shall be deemed not to be State land for the purposes of the State Property Act, 1954.
The section was opposed in Committee on the grounds that it could be interpreted as diminishing our rights under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920, and an amendment suggested to the effect that the fisheries in question should be deemed not to be State lands for the purposes of Sections 10 and 11 of the State Property Act, 1954. To meet this point and at the same time to satisfy the purposes of the section, it is proposed that the section should be amended to the effect that the fisheries shall not be State lands for the purposes of Part II of the State Property Act, 1954, instead of, as originally proposed, for the purposes of Sections 10 and 11 only of Part II.
Does Professor Stanford wish to make a point, Sir?
I might be more in order in raising it on the Final Stage. I want to raise a point in connection with Sections 15 and 16. I do not think there is any likelihood of any amendment being accepted at this stage. I should like to raise a point of general policy on those sections. The Cathaoirleach will appreciate that, in a Bill of this kind, where we have no Second Reading or Committee Stage, perhaps, a certain latitude might be allowed to Senators.
We had a Second Stage.
May I raise the point on the Final Stage?
I will permit the Senator to do so, but it is not desirable procedure.
Bill received for final consideration.
This is a point of general policy which has become acute, owing to a letter in yesterday's Irish Times. The Parliamentary Secretary may have seen a letter there stating that a particularly flagrant case of poaching in the County Tipperary was considered by the District Justice to be worthy of a heavy fine. The culprit was professionally represented and he had a full opportunity of making his case. Yet the District Justice thought that he should pay a heavy fine. The poacher appealed to the Minister and was let off with a nominal fine, according to this letter. I think I speak on behalf of all those who are trying to improve the fisheries of Ireland in saying that some members of the Seanad at least should question the wisdom of that policy.
I think it is very undesirable to attempt a discussion on a matter like this on the strength of a letter to the newspapers and without any previous notice to the Parliamentary Secretary. I assumed that the Senator was raising a matter for the purpose of clarification of some point contained in Section 15 or 16.
With due respect, I was intending to lead up to that. I intended, on the basis of this letter, together with personal testimony I have received from those interested in Irish fisheries, to ask that this fine of £2 should be regarded as a minimum rather than as a maximum fine. I would respectfully suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary, in the hope he will convey it to the Minister, that he should exercise great restraint in reducing fines under this Bill. The position at the moment is that the average salmon is worth £5. The average fish can be sold for that amount. Here the minimum fine for illegal fishing in this Bill is £2, with a maximum of £25. I do suggest there will be opportunities for making a pretty fair profit by poaching, unless this section is interpreted very rigidly by the Minister.
I would draw the Senator's attention to the fact that it was possible to put down amendments to this Bill.
At the Select Committee, I was late in putting down an amendment. But a member of the Department said he would bring the matter to the attention of the Government and that they would give consideration to it. Since I do not find any change here, I thought it necessary to raise the matter. I think it is a regrettable policy that, when a District Justice, with a full knowledge of the facts, imposes a major fine, the defendant should be able to go to the Minister and get a merely nominal fine substituted. I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to ask the Minister to go into that matter. In this regard, I am speaking on behalf of those who are interested in preserving Irish fishing.
I have noted very carefully the observations of Senator Stanford and I can assure him I will bear them very much in mind. I can give the assurance that, when the Fisheries (Amendment) Bill is being prepared, following the present Bill and the consolidated Fisheries Bill, the whole question of increasing the penalties for fishery offences will receive special consideration.