Stephen Trust, the director of Trust Trawlers Ltd of Brixham, was given a six-month suspended sentence and fined £20,000 by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency

The director of a Brixham-based fishing company has been fined £20,000 and handed a six-month suspended sentence for operating an unsafe fishing vessel and sailing in contravention of a detention notice.

Stephen Trust, of Trust Trawlers Ltd, pleaded guilty to the charges on behalf of the company at Southampton Crown Court.

The prosecution was brought by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).

The court heard that in April 2016 the 27-metre fishing trawler – Jacomina, which was owned by Trust Trawlers Ltd, was found to be in a poor state of repair.

It was also operating without a valid fishing vessel licence.

Safety deficiencies included an expired hydrostatic release of the vessel’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB); the emergency hand pump was not operational; the flares and line throwers were out of date; the VHF radio survey was out of date; the anchor chain was not rigged to the anchor; and the emergency steering tiller was defective.

The vessel was subsequently detained by MCA surveyors and told it could not go to sea until it had been repaired and all its safety equipment fully operational and in date.

On 16 May 2016, the vessel sailed to Holland while still under detention and was subsequently sold.

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Throughout the investigation, which revealed that the vessel had not been subject to a survey or inspection since early 2014, Stephen Trust refused to cooperate with the MCA.

Commenting on the case, the MCA’s Assistant Director Survey & Inspection South,Tony Heslop, said; “This is a most disturbing case of a fishing vessel being operated in an unsafe manner.”

“Not only had the vessel not been inspected for two years, when surveyors were eventually able to get on board they found much of the safety equipment was defective or out of date.”

“The vessel was detained, but rather than putting things right Mr Trust took it on himself to defy the detention notice and take the vessel to Holland,” continued Heslop.

“It is well known that commercial fishing is a high risk occupation. To display such a blatant disregard for the safety rules, and potentially putting lives at risk, is completely unacceptable,” stressed the assistant director.

“The MCA will actively pursue anyone who operates in such a reckless manner,” he added.

In sentencing Trust on 21 April, Judge Ralls QC wanted to send a clear message to irresponsible fishermen: “Health and Safety Legislation is there for a reason and should not be flouted,” said the Judge.

Trust was given a six month suspended sentence for operating an unsafe vessel and for refusing to provide information to the MCA during the investigation.

He was also fined a total of £20,000 for these offences and for moving the vessel when detained, and ordered to pay £18,000 in costs.