Authorities tried to prosecute his firm for fishing in a 44ft boat off the Shambles

A chartered fishing boat operator has won a legal battle with authorities that tried to prosecute his firm for fishing in a 44ft boat off Portland Bill and Shambles Bank.

The Southern Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority (SIFCA), and its predecessor Southern Sea Fisheries (SSF), launched legal action against skipper Patrick Carlin because they said the firm was breaking a bylaw that prevents boats longer than 12 metres from fishing within six miles of the coast.

Carlin, who runs Carlin Boat Charter Limited, fought the prosecution claiming that the bylaw was intended for commercial operators not the recreational anglers onboard his boat. Both the Professional Boatman’s Association and Weymouth and Portland Licensed Skippers Association supported this view.

Patrick Carlin claimed the legal action meant his 25-year-old business was under threat, the Daily Echo reports.

Carlin won when the case went to court but SIFCA appealed, taking it to the High Court in London where senior judges Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Owen ruled again in Carlin’s favour. The bylaw, they said, was ‘irrational’ because there was no evidence that recreational fishermen were considered when it was drafted.

“The judges saw right through what was going on and they deliberated for less than two minutes,” Carlin said. “When they came out they said that these people were trying to criminalise a section of the community that were not criminals.”

The saga began four years ago at the European Angling Championships off the Shambles. Carlin’s boat was boarded by the SSF and told they were breaking a bylaw. After six months of negotiations the authority again boarded his boat and he was issued with a notice of prosecution.

The judges at the High Court ordered that Carlin’s costs be covered by public funds whilst SIFCA, which is funded by local authorities,should cover their own costs. Carlin claims that the case has cost the public purse more than £120,000.