A CHARTERED fishing boat operator from Weymouth is celebrating a legal victory after a four-year battle with authorities that he claims tried to ‘destroy’ him.

Patrick Carlin, who runs Carlin Boat Charter Limited, said his business of 25 years was under threat by legal action from the Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SIFCA) and its predecessor Southern Sea Fisheries (SSF).

They were trying to prosecute his firm for fishing in a boat, Channel Chieftain V, off Portland Bill and Shambles Bank because it was more than 12-metres long.

Mr Carlin’s case, which was backed by the Professional Boatman’s Association and Weymouth and Portland Licensed Skippers Association, was that the bylaw preventing the use of vessels of more than 12m fishing within six miles of the coast was intended for commercial operators and never meant to apply to recreational anglers.

His view was backed in court but it did not prevent SIFCA from taking it to the High Court in London.

Mr Carlin said the saga dated back four years when the European Angling Championships were taking place in the resort and a number of boats were fishing in the catch and release competition off the Shambles.

His boat was boarded by the then fishing authority SSF and informed he was breaking a bylaw by using the 13.5-metre boat in the area.

Mr Carlin said: “The whole competition was put in jeopardy by it.”

Negotiations with the SSF followed but six months later, after Mr Carlin and his supporters had been dissuaded from taking the issue to judicial review, his boat was boarded again by the authority and he was issued with a notice of prosecution.

After Mr Carlin and Dave Gibson, secretary of the Licensed Skippers Association and director of the Professional Boatman’s Assoc-iation, tried and failed to get the bylaw amended at an SSF committee meeting the matter eventually ended up at Weymouth Magistrates Court last February.

Despite district judge Roger House ruling in Mr Carlin’s favour, the SIFCA – which took on the role of the SSF last April – appealed the decision.

The High Court case was heard by senior judges Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Owen and they backed Judge House’s view that the bylaw was ‘irrational’ because there was no evidence that recreational fishermen were considered when it was drafted.

Mr Carlin said: “The judges saw right through what was going on and they deliberated for less than two minutes.

“When they came out they said that these people were trying to criminalise a section of the community that were not criminals.”

The judges ordered that Mr Carlin’s costs be covered by public funds, while SIFCA – which is funded by local authorities – was ordered to cover its own costs.

Mr Carlin said that still effectively meant the cost to the public purse of the protracted case was more than £120,000.


MR CARLIN said he was still coming to terms with what had been a long and difficult ordeal during which he had felt victimised by the authorities.

He said on the first occasion he was boarded there were five other charter boats over 12m in the water yet his was the only one approached.

Mr Carlin, 54, said his whole industry had also come under attack by those he had been fighting against, alleging that charter boat operators had been undermining commercial operators by selling fish and going out with more than the legally entitled 12 passengers.

He said: “This has seriously affected my whole operation.

“To live with the fact that the powers that be wanted to destroy my business and it seemed very much like they only wanted to get me.

“All the other vessels over 12m in the area they had no problems with at all.”

Mr Carlin added: “It has put an enormous amount of pressure on my family, living with it for four years.

“It’s even got to the point where my wife is seriously ill, she’s been in hospital for five weeks and I’m sure the stress we have suffered over the last four years has contributed to that.

“They were trying to destroy the business that I had worked my whole life for.”

Mr Carlin, who has taken chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall out on fishing trips, said as he was only ever allowed to take out a maximum of 12 passengers anyway, the bigger boat was simply to improve comfort and would not have any effect on the number of fish caught.


Fellow Weymouth charter boat operator Dave Gibson said urgent work needed to be done to ensure that a new and viable bylaw is put in place.

Mr Gibson, who has managed to get a place on the SIFCA committee and hopes to give charter operators more of a voice, said the ruling meant the original bylaw was now void.

He said the committee had tried to replace the bylaw with an emergency bylaw but used the same wording as the original one and that had now expired anyway.

Mr Gibson said it seemed the authority was now finally moving forward with implementing a new bylaw that specifically excluded rod and line anglers and divers, which is exactly what he and Mr Carlin had wanted all along.

He said: “Here we are £120,000 down out of public funds and more than four years on and we’ve started to put in the process we tried in 2008.”