Section 28 — Unauthorised introduction of fish into inland waters

Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:00 pm on 1st March 2007.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 4:00 pm, 1st March 2007

Group 6 is on offences of intentionally introducing live fish or spawn into inland waters—evidence of a single witness. Amendment 8 is the only amendment in the group.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent

Amendment 8 would remove the provision that a person who commits an offence under section 28

"may be convicted on the evidence of one witness."

That provision will undermine the principle of corroboration, which is enshrined in Scots law. Two witnesses are not necessarily required for corroboration, but two or more separate sources of evidence are required. If that approach is considered sufficient to convict a thief, a rapist or a murderer, why should the law be different for alleged offences in fishing?

I accept that there are provisions on fishing that are similar to the provision in section 28. Ministers have tried to justify the approach by saying that a gamekeeper or water bailiff is often the only witness to an alleged offence. However, why should the word of a gamekeeper or water bailiff automatically be considered superior to the word of anyone else?

There is an anomaly in the bill, in that section 28 provides that a person may be convicted on the evidence of one witness for an offence of introducing fish into freshwater, whereas I see no similar stipulation in section 27, which refers to the introduction of fish into seawater—there is one rule for fish in freshwater and another for fish in seawater. In the interests of consistency and natural justice, the Scottish Executive should remove the provision in section 28, so that the normal principles of corroboration and justice will apply to offences under section 28.

I move amendment 8.

Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat

Dennis Canavan is right to talk about principles that are enshrined in Scots law, because the principle of using a single witness in relation to offences such as we are considering is well established in Scots law. Indeed, provisions in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 can be traced back to provisions in the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Act 1951 and—just as important—the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868. Therefore the provision in section 28(6) is not new and I understand that the approach to the new offence that will be created by the bill is entirely consistent with the approach that has been taken in the past. The approach removes the need for a second witness as the sole test of corroboration, in recognition of the fact that water bailiffs are often obliged to work alone, given the nature of their work. The standard of proof is not affected; any offence under section 28 will have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

I ask Parliament to reject amendment 8.

Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan Independent 4:15 pm, 1st March 2007

Ross Finnie has given no justification for the provision except that similar provisions are contained in other acts of Parliament that date back to the 19 th century. In the 19 th century, water bailiffs and gamekeepers probably had more power than we would we want them to have today. The minister should tell Parliament why what was right in the 19 th century should be repeated, reinforced or consolidated in the 21 st century. I see no justification for the provision either in the bill or in any other legislation.

Even if there is only one witness—a gamekeeper, a policeman, a water bailiff or just an ordinary person who goes out for a walk and sees an illegal act being committed—it is still possible to convict a person with the evidence of the witness plus evidence from some other source. I do not agree that, if amendment 8 were agreed to, it would somehow be impossible to convict real felons, so I will press the amendment to a vote.

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The question is, that amendment 8 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 11

For: Byrne, Ms Rosemary, Canavan, Dennis, Munro, John Farquhar, Swinburne, John
Against: Adam, Brian, Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Arbuckle, Mr Andrew, Baillie, Jackie, Baird, Shiona, Baker, Richard, Ballance, Chris, Ballard, Mark, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Brownlee, Derek, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Curran, Ms Margaret, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Ewing, Fergus, Fabiani, Linda, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Gallie, Phil, Gibson, Rob, Gillon, Karen, Glen, Marlyn, Gordon, Mr Charlie, Grahame, Christine, Harper, Robin, Harvie, Patrick, Home Robertson, John, Hughes, Janis, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Margaret, Johnstone, Alex, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lochhead, Richard, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, Maclean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, Marwick, Tricia, Mather, Jim, Matheson, Michael, Maxwell, Mr Stewart, May, Christine, McAveety, Mr Frank, McFee, Mr Bruce, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Michael, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Milne, Mrs Nanette, Morgan, Alasdair, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Murray, Dr Elaine, Neil, Alex, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Petrie, Dave, Pringle, Mike, Purvis, Jeremy, Robison, Shona, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mike, Ruskell, Mr Mark, Scott, Eleanor, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Margaret, Stevenson, Stewart, Stone, Mr Jamie, Swinney, Mr John, Tosh, Murray, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watt, Ms Maureen, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Whitefield, Karen

Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour

The result of the division is: For 4, Against 95, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 8 disagreed to.