Amendment 36a is an alternative to amendment No. 36 and both may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
I move amendment No. 36:
In page 33, lines 32 and 33, to delete subsection (3) and substitute the following:
"(3) Notwithstanding section 309 of the Principal Act, a summary offence under the Fisheries (Amendment) Act, 1997, shall be prosecuted only —
(a) by the Minister; or
(b) at the suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions.".
As it stands, all prosecutions, whether for summary or indictable offences, under the Act fall to be prosecuted at the suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The provisions of section 49 of the Fisheries Act, 1980, remain extant allowing for offences under the Fisheries Acts generally to be heard and determined in a summary way by a District Justice upon a complaint about, for example, the central or regional fisheries boards or an officer of those boards. I reconsidered the position in relation to the most appropriate prosecuting authority for summary type offences under this Bill. I believe the Minister should also be empowered to bring a prosecution for a summary offence. The DPP will continue to be the prosecuting authority for indictable offences.
As regards Deputy Molloy's amendment, I do not propose to grant the boards further powers over and above those they already have. This Bill does not interfere with the powers of the fisheries boards under the existing Fisheries Acts in relation to the protection of wild fisheries. Existing legislation is not undermined by this Bill and the fisheries boards will continue to have the same rights they currently have in relation to prosecution for fishery offences.
I understood the powers of the central and regional fisheries boards provided for under section 309 of the Principal Act, and amended by section 49 of the 1980 Act, were being interfered with by the section as drafted. I was confused by the Minister of State's amendment and by his subsequent contribution. He said, notwithstanding section 309 of the Principal Act, offences shall be prosecuted by the Minister or the DPP. I take it the inclusion of "the Minister" is to deal with summary cases. The Minister of State went on to say he was not interfering with the rights of the fisheries boards to prosecute under these Acts. I am not clear about the effect of the Minister of State's amendment which gives this power to the Minister and excludes the fisheries boards, although I listened carefully to what he said.
Section 65 sets down the offences and the general penalty for contravention or failure to comply with a provision of this Bill. It provides that an action for an offence under this Bill shall be prosecuted at the suit of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The effect of my amendment is to provide that a summary offence may be prosecuted by either the DPP or the Minister. An indictable offence would be prosecuted by the DPP. That is as far as it goes as regards offences under this Bill. There is a range of offences under the fisheries Acts generally which are not affected this Bill. The rights of fisheries boards and, indeed, private water keepers, who have certain functions, will remain in place under section 49 of the 1980 Act.
Will the fisheries boards have a role as regards prosecutions under this legislation?
No. However, the fisheries boards have powers under the fisheries Acts which will apply to aquaculture activities as they do to other activities.
What about matters other than those covered by this Bill?
The fisheries boards will retain the right to prosecute matters covered by existing fisheries legislation. None of those powers is repealed by this legislation.