Three Mayo men convicted of false imprisonment, assault and obstruction after ‘very serious’ illegal fishing incident
Three Mayo men have been convicted of false imprisonment, assault and obstruction as they attempted to evade Fisheries Officers from Inland Fisheries Ireland at Belderrig Pier on the North Mayo coast two years ago.
At a sitting of Ballina District Court on July 12th this year, Judge Fiona Lydon also convicted the men of possessing illegally-caught wild Atlantic salmon and nets, in charges brought by Inland Fisheries Ireland. The charges of false imprisonment were brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Daniel McHale, with an address of Belderrig Mor in Ballina, was sentenced to six months in prison, which was suspended for two years; Liam McHale of Carnrock in Belmullet was sentenced to four months in prison, also suspended for two years. Joachim McNulty, with an address of Belderrig Beg in Ballina, was sentenced to four months in prison, which was suspended for two years. The three men were also ordered to pay €2,500 each to charity.
The court heard evidence from Lonan O’ Farrell, an Inspector with Inland Fisheries Ireland, that on the evening of July 15th 2020, the men were approached by Fisheries Officers as they recovered their boat at Belderrig Pier on the North Mayo coast. The Fisheries Officers suspected that the men had illegally-caught wild Atlantic salmon and illegal gill nets on board but were obstructed and assaulted when they lawfully attempted to board the vessel. A Fisheries Officer was subsequently assaulted and knocked overboard by one of the men, but two colleagues managed to board the vessel. When the Fisheries Officer swam safely back to the pier, the court heard that emergency services were contacted and An Garda Síochána quickly arrived on the scene.
With two Fisheries Officers still on board, the men took the boat out to sea and refused to obey orders to return the boat back to port. A short time later, the men agreed to bring the boat back to port and the Fisheries Officers were able to get back to the pier, safely.
The boat, ‘An Deiseach’, was later detained in Porturlin Harbour where forensics and salmon scale samples were taken as evidence for the subsequent criminal prosecution. Fisheries Officers, along with An Garda Síochana, seized three vehicles on the night belonging to the men in question. Inspector Pat Armstrong, Officer Brian Flannery and Assistant Inspector Michael Wilson, all with Inland Fisheries Ireland, also gave evidence during court proceedings providing their accounts of the incident to Judge Lydon.
The CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland, Francis O’ Donnell, welcomed the convictions, saying it was one of the most serious incidents that the agency has come across. He said: “Thanks to the brave actions of our Fisheries Officers, a major illegal fishing gang has been stopped and brought to justice. However, in the course of doing their job to protect vulnerable fish species, such as wild Atlantic salmon, they were obstructed, assaulted and falsely imprisoned. This is not acceptable and cannot be tolerated in Irish society. This very serious case sends out a clear message to those involved in illegal fishing – we will use our full powers under the law to protect people doing their jobs and to prosecute offenders through the courts.”
O’Donnell also thanked An Garda Síochána and the Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of Inland Fisheries Ireland for their assistance in the case.
Fisheries Officers have nominated three charities - the Charlie Bird Fund, Western Alzheimer’s Association and the RNLI - to receive the three €2,500 donations.
Meanwhile, members of the public are being encouraged to report any suspicions of illegal fishing activity to Inland Fisheries Ireland on their confidential hotline number. That number is 0818 34 74 24, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
NOTES TO THE EDITOR
Additional notes on case:
Case: Inland Fisheries Ireland -v- Joachim McNulty, Liam McHale, Daniel Mc Hale
Incident at Belderrig Pier (15th July 2020)
Ballina District Court, Co. Mayo (12th July 2022)
On July 12th 2022 at Ballina District Court, Joachim McNulty (with an address of Belderrig Beg in Ballina, Co. Mayo), was convicted of false imprisonment and Judge Lydon imposed a four-month sentence, suspended for two years. The judge took all Fisheries Offences into account with convictions for assault on Officers O’Farrell, Flannery and Armstrong, obstruction on Officer Wilson, possession of nets and possession of unlawfully captured salmon.
On July 12th 2022 at Ballina District Court, Daniel McHale (with an address of Belderrig Mor in Ballina, Co. Mayo), was convicted of false imprisonment and Judge Lydon imposed a six-month sentence, suspended for two years. The judge took all fisheries offences into account with convictions for assault on Officer O’Farrell, obstruction on Officer Wilson as well as possession of nets and possession of unlawfully captured salmon.
On July 12th 2022 at Ballina District Court, Liam McHale (with an address of Carnrock in Belmullet, Co. Mayo) was convicted of false imprisonment and Judge Lydon imposed a four-month sentence, suspended for two years. The judge took all fisheries offences into account with convictions for assault on Officer Armstrong, obstruction on Officer Flannery, possession of nets and possession of unlawfully captured salmon.
Low resolution images of the boat involved in this case, ‘An Deiseach,’ being seized are available from Inland Fisheries Ireland by contacting the communications team below.
For media information, please contact:
Sarah Bohan/ Sadhbh O’Neill
Inland Fisheries Ireland
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T: 087 65 39936 / 087 1019998