michael cavanaghTWO Greencastle fishermen who landed tonnes of extra fish in Killybegs in 2004 without properly recording it have been given large fines today.

Michael Cavanagh was fined €30,000 whilst co-accused Brendan Gill was fined €37,500.

Michael Cavanagh – a tireless charity worker who raises money for good causes through his role as The Singing Skipper – pleaded guilty to one charge of landing mackerel and scad from his boat ‘The Father McKee’ without properly recording it in October 2004.

Brendan Gill, the 64-year-old skipper of the Brendelen, also pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to properly record a catch in September 2004.

It emerged in court today that both men had never hidden the extra tens of thousands of euro they earned from the catch from the Revenue Commissioners, declaring it in their tax returns.

Cavanagh, 65, had earned an extra €24,580 from his failure to declare 123 tonnes of mackerel and an extra tonne of scad.

Gill, a 64-year-old father of four, had earned an extra €33,251 from his failure to declare an extra 135 tonnes of scad and 50 tonnes of mackerel.

Both men had originally faced two dozen charges each.

Peter Nolan, barrister for Mr Cavanagh, launched a scathing attack on the justice system saying his client had been tortured by a system which took ten years to come to court.

He said his client was not unlike a character from the Frank Kafka novel ‘The Trial’  who was “arrested and prosecuted by a remote inaccessible authority, without him ever being told the nature of the alleged crime or the charges”.

He said the monitoring of the fishing industry at the time was “a comedy of errors” overseen by “Keystone cops”.

Mr Nolan went on: “The fact is there would be no fishing industry at all if it were not for people like Mr Cavanagh.”

He also said his client worked tirelessly for charity, raising €37,000 for them in recent years through sales of his ‘Singing Skipper’ CDs.

Both skippers employed a dozen people on their boats, the court heard.

Damian Crawford, barrister for Mr Gill, said his client had also had no previous criminal history, had worked hard all his life for his family and his crew.

He also said that his client would face difficulties next year because quotas were being cut again.

“The fishing season is now down to six months and there is no guarantee that when he and his crew go to sea that they will even return him with a catch,” said Mr Crawford.

The maximum fine for the offences is €126,000.

Judge Keenan Johnson said both accused men were clearly hard-working family men who contributed to society and to jobs.

However he said he had to send a message out to the fishing industry that the courts would view very seriously any breaches of fishing quotas.

Judge Johnson said it was clear from the evidence in the case that the system in place for measuring catches in 2004 was under-resourced.

He said it was ‘pot luck’ whether or not a catch would be assessed by fisheries officers due to the lack of staff.

This had now changed, he said.

The judge said Ireland could now ‘hold its head up high’ in how it now dealt with regulations.

 


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