Criminal cases brought by the Attorney General against more than 20 individuals for alleged Fisheries offences have been adjourned to December.
Donegal Circuit Court heard on Tuesday that a number of cases involving some of the defendants had been brought before the High Court. In these cases, the defendants were challenging the constitutionality of the section of the Fisheries Act under which they had been charged. The outcome of the Circuit Court proceedings would, it was argued, depend on the High Court’s ruling. Although the High Court hearings had been completed, the decision was still pending.
Patricia McLaughlin, counsel for the State, said Attorney General’s office had advised to her to proceed with a number of cases in the Circuit Court, as it regarded them to be independent of the High Court cases.
Judge John O’Hagan disagreed. He said that, generally speaking, when a case goes before the High Court that might have an effect on the outcome of a case in a lower court, the lower court case is deferred pending the outcome of the High Court case.
“It’s fair to the litigants that that should happen and it saves on expenses. The Attorney General says ‘I’m ready to go on and I am ignoring the fact that a judgment is awaited.’ I believe that going ahead exposes the accused to a risk of conviction which I don’t believe is fair or justified under the circumstances. “I’m adjourning these cases until the High Court cases are resolved. I’m putting them back to the December sitting, in the hopes that the judgement which is eagerly awaited will be resolved by then.”