Deputy Thomas Pringle
Donegal TD, Thomas Pringle, has called on the government to quash illegal convictions under Inland Fisheries Act 2010.
Deputy Pringle made his call while speaking in the Dáil on the Inland Fisheries Bill 2017 when he questioned the Minister in relation to outstanding legal uncertainties contained in the Government’s legislation.
“This is nothing short of a scandal similar to what was carried out by Gardaí on the penalty points fiasco," the Killybegs-based TD said.
“The Government introduced this legislation in light of advice from the Attorney General that Inland Fisheries Ireland had unlawfully prosecuted people in court for breaches to fishing legislation.
“They’ve already withdrawn 150 prosecutions that are pending because they didn’t have a legal basis to take them to court in the first place but bizarrely they claim anyone previously prosecuted and convicted is not affected," he added.
Claiming that Fine Gael are "refusing to own up to the full extent of the problem" he continued: "If someone was illegally before the courts in the first place they should have their conviction quashed and this means the 320 convictions under the 2010 Act between 2012 and 2015 are unsafe in my view. The Minister is deliberately obfuscating in the hopes that they won’t have to deal with this and to bury this scandal.
“This is nothing short of a scandal similar to what happened with the Gardaí regarding penalty points but because it’s about fishermen nobody in Government seems to be that worried which is unacceptable."
“These illegal convictions have greatly affected people. Most had to pay fines but some may have spent time in jail and ended up with criminal records. The Department and Inland Fisheries need to contact the 320 cases and facilitate those people to have those convictions quashed. "
The Donegal Deputy added: "I attended a case recently in Dungloe where up to 30 prosecutions were withdrawn by Inland Fisheries Ireland since the problem was exposed. What makes these cases different to the others already convicted and when will the Government act on them?
“I would advise anyone who has been convicted under the 2010 Act to seek legal advice as to how to go about getting these convictions quashed. In the meantime I will be monitoring the Government’s intentions throughout this process."