'Magna Carta is no defence' - Man caught fishing illegally on Broads

Norfolk from the air during the autumn sunshine. Horsey Mill.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Norfolk from the air during the autumn sunshine. Horsey Mill.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

An angler who went fishing illegally in protected waters on the Norfolk Broads has admitted swearing at the officers who caught him red-handed.

Peter Regan, 69, of Borrow Road, Lowestoft, appeared at Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court on November 20 charged with theft of fishing rights and a public order offence after he was found fishing on Horsey Mere without permission from the Horsey Estate.

He had initially pleaded not guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing, but admitted during the trial he used "foul and abusive language" towards the officers who stopped him.

The incident happened on January 2 this year, when Regan was discovered fishing from a boat on the Mere during a joint operation between the Environment Agency and the Broads Beat team. 

The Broadsbeat police launch at Wroxham Photo : Steve Adams

Peter Regan was caught fishing illegally on Horsey Mere on January 2 2020 by Broads Beat officers - Credit: Steve Adams

Regan swore at officers as they questioned him, and admitted to fishing without permission from the estate.

In a statement Norfolk Police said: "This landmark case for the Broads shows that even in tidal waters fishing rights can be private.

"Anglers sometimes refer to the Magna Carta in defence of their actions, but as was demonstrated in court, the Magna Carta was mostly repealed in 1969 by the Statute Law Repeals Act and is therefore no longer a defence for fishing without permission."

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Regan received a conditional discharge for a year and was ordered to pay £641 in costs.

On that same day in January, another angler was also found to be fishing without permission from a boat on Horsey Mere and following an interview at Aylsham Police Investigation Centre, accepted a formal caution.

PC Paul Bassham from the Broads Beat Team said: "This has been an ongoing problem that effects not only law-abiding anglers but private fishing establishments across the UK. 

"Horsey Mere is a nationally important and protected winter wildfowl refuge area, between 1 November to 28 February. Disturbing birds during this period is an offence."

This particular part of the Broads network is known for it's bountiful pike populations in winter, and has long been a source of tension between anglers and the estate's proprietor. 

From November to February, boat access on the mere is limited to navigation between the end of Meadow Dyke and Horsey Staithe.

And while anglers can use a small area in the southern part of the mere - they must first acquire an express permit to do so.

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