Long fishing tale finally complete
21 February 2005
In a case dating back to 1999, a former commercial fisherman, Craig Raoul Hill, has been found guilty on 15 charges, including selling fish in contravention of the Fisheries Act, taking fish for sale without quota and failing to furnish documents required under Fisheries legislation. Hill was fined a total of $44,000 for the offending.
This result has been an extremely long haul for Fishery Officers who detected the offending and commenced "Operation Oil" back in 1999, when Hill's commercial fishing activities came under suspicion. After a period of investigation, Hill was detected illegally selling fish directly to a number of local Fish and Chip shops. These sales were black-market sales completely outside the Quota Management System.
As a result of the operation six other people were prosecuted. These included five dealers in fish who were convicted of buying illegal fish, and a crewman of Hill's who was convicted of selling fish. These convictions were all completed by 2001.
Hill's prosecution dragged over six years becoming something akin to a fisherman's tale itself. Initial delays were caused through Hill changing legal counsel on the eve of three hearing dates. After the third occasion it was determined that the matter was to be heard by way of formal proof. This allowed for the evidence to be heard in Hill's absence. Following the trial Hill was convicted on all charges in early 2002. This conviction was appealed and following the hearing, the convictions were quashed with a new hearing date set.
Hill hired a fourth lawyer for this matter and finally it was heard in the Christchurch District Court in early 2004. At this time Hill was again convicted on a number of charges. These convictions were appealed again but the matter finally concluded late last week with the High Court ruling.
District Compliance Manager John Slaughter said he was pleased the matter had been finally resolved as it had dragged on for a long time. Mr Slaughter said he was pleased with the result and proud of his staff, who had remained committed to resolving the matter despite the long delays encountered throughout.
The court had recognised the seriousness of black-market fish activities and the penalties reflected this. Mr Slaughter also said that although the court process appears now to be finalised, there were forfeiture issues involving Hill's vessel and truck still to be resolved.