Fishing licence charges discontinued

Some laws will offend new Constitution

Four people accused of fishing
without a licence had that charge against them withdrawn last week.

Crown Counsel Candia James told the
court the Legal Department would not be proceeding against Stephen Andrew
Copeland, 55; Andrea Morgan, 30; Doreen Smith, 49; and Robert Simpson, 40. They
were charged with taking marine life without a licence and having in their
possession fish less than eight inches in length taken from Cayman waters.

The alleged offences occurred on 10
March and three defendants first appeared in Summary Court last month.

A 2007 amendment to the Marine
Conservation Law requires non-Caymanians fishing from shore to have a licence.

Chief Magistrate Margaret
Ramsay-Hale expressed concern as to whether a law that is applicable to one
section of the population is discriminatory and in potential breach of Cayman’s
new Constitution, which came into effect last year and includes a Bill of
Rights that will come into effect in 2012.

She asked the Crown Counsel in
court that day to take her concern back to the Legal Department, saying she had
no settled view on the matter.

Last week, Senior Crown Counsel
Tanya Lobban said she had reviewed the file and determined what course to take.
“It’s not a matter of law; it’s a matter of discretion that the Crown chose to
discontinue proceedings,” she said.

Ms Lobban noted there are rights
that do exist but are not yet in force. That will happen in 2012, she
indicated, referring to the Bill of Rights.

“A lot of laws will have to be
revised because they will be offending the new Constitution,” she commented.

With the licence charge withdrawn,
defendants Simpson and Smith pleaded guilty to having in their possession fish
less than eight inches in length. Each was fined $50. Both charges against Mr.
Copeland were dismissed and Ms Morgan’s file was marked “Proceedings stayed —
left jurisdiction”.

The magistrate thanked Ms James for
withdrawing the licensing charges.

She told the defendants that the
marine laws are for the protection and preservation of marine life for the
benefit of future generations. The court takes those laws seriously and if they
re-offend they would be facing much stiffer penalties, she warned.

The section under which the
defendants were charged says: Whoever resides in the Islands and who does not
possess Caymanian status or who has a permit to work in the Islands and who,
while he is on shore or while he is in any part of Cayman waters in which he
can stand (with or without assistance), takes or attempts to take by any means
any marine life, is guilty of an offence unless licensed by the Marine
Conservation Board.

The licence fee set out in the law
is $400 annually or $150 monthly.

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