Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold a High Court ruling quashing a penalty points system that criminalised fishermen.
The Ireland South MEP said the onus was now on the Government to develop a fair system that protected fishermen and our waters.
“As a member of the Fisheries Committee in Europe I regularly meet with Irish fishermen and know all too well damage this draconian, unfair and ineffective penalty points system has done to fishermen and their livelihoods,” she said.
“This result proves the argument that I have been making for the last number of years, that fishermen across the country have been treated worst than criminals by this system, whether through over-policing bordering on harassment or not being afforded due process.
“Thankfully, our judiciary have finally recognised that indisputable fact.
“It has now been indisputably recognised that this failed Statutory Instrument did not respect fishermen´s right to appeal to an Irish Court.
“That is something that Minister Creed and the SFPA would do well to remember when devising future schemes. It has now been clearly demonstrated that any attempts to introduce such controls in the future for fishing violations will be regarded as unacceptable and undemocratic.
“This system, outrageously, allowed vessel authorities to refuse to defer the enactment of the penalty points process for a boat’s licence pending any court decision, which could take years to decide.
“This meant fishermen who would have been innocent of any wrong-doing were still penalised. It was effectively a case of ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ Thankfully the courts have ruled that was not in accordance with fair procedures.
“With this ruling Irish fishermen and the people of our coastal communities have been vindicated. The state must respect this decision and learn from it before they consider attempting similar schemes again.
“The Minister and the SFPA should study this result, withdraw the proposal and go back to the drawing board.”