Stiff penalty for abusive licence cheat

Rod licence dodgers could be in-line to face tougher penalties after an evader became one of the first ever to receive a community service order for his crime.

Law abiding anglers have bemoaned lenient sentences handed out to thousands of people caught without the correct documentation but the courts made a stand against the issue when Scott Riddle was ordered to do 50 hours of unpaid work and banned from the sport for a year.

The 29-year-old from Somerset was approached at his local docks by Environment Agency staff in January who asked to see his rod licence. He instantly became rude and evasive, giving a false date of birth and swearing before pushing past a bailiff.
Despite their best efforts to calm him down he continued in the same vain and was eventually handcuffed while police were called for assistance.

Appearing at Taunton Magistrates Court, Scott pleaded not guilty to fishing without a rod licence but guilty to obstructing an EA bailiff. He was subsequently found guilty of both offences.

Officials confirmed the tough sentence was handed out as a result of the violent nature shown by the defendant and EA staff member Richard Dearnley said: “‘The defendant could have saved himself a lot of time and trouble if he’d purchased a licence and shown a little more  courtesy when approached by bailiffs.

“We watched him make five or six casts and there was no doubt he was fishing,” he added.

Since the conviction Angling Times have been inundated with comments on Facebook about the decision, and reader Andy Bristow said: “I don’t think this goes far enough. The fines should be at least £1,000 for the first offence. I’m currently unemployed so if I can afford a licence so can everyone else.”

Yorkshire’s Craig Brown also shared this view and believes good causes should benefit from criminals. He said: “Those caught fishing without a licence should get all their tackle taken off them and it should all be donated to charity.”

Others believe the punishment is too harsh, with reader Chris Warman from Newport adding: “Yes, he's committed an offence but a fine and naming and shaming should have been enough.”