Norfolk fishermen cleared of keeping and kicking a harbour porpoise
- Credit: Steve Adams
A father and son were found not guilty at Norwich Magistrates' Court following an unusual trial regarding the treatment of a harbour porpoise.
David Chambers and his son, James, both fishermen from Mill Road, Briston, were cleared of possessing the protected species – which resembles a baby dolphin.
The pair appeared in court after a 'disgruntled ex-employee' contacted the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to claim that on April 6, 2014, the fishermen had kept the porpoise in the back of their truck, before James Chambers chased a woman around their yard with it and kicked it.
Defence solicitor Alan Wheatman, speaking for David Chambers, said the accusation was one in a long line of attempts to ruin the pair and the reputation of their business, the Norfolk Sea Larder.
The Norfolk Sea Larder provides the region with Norfolk crabs and fresh lobsters among other fish and has a five-boat fleet.
Richard Brooking, the ex-employee, made the complaint to the MMO six months after the alleged incident.
He and his girlfriend, Roxanne Holmes, from Preston, appeared as witnesses for the prosecution.
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Questioned by prosecutor Carl May-Smith, they both said that the protected species was not put back as soon as possible – which is a requirement by law.
Miss Holmes told the court: 'James Chambers shoved it right in my face and chased me around... because he knew I was squeamish.
'Then he dropped it and kicked it like a football, but it didn't go very far.'
Mr Wheatman highlighted inconsistences in Miss Holmes and Mr Brooking's evidence, dismissing the complaint as sour grapes as Mr Brooking had lost his job.
Magistrates found the two fishermen not guilty.
The father and son maintained throughout the eight-hour trial that they had discovered a harbour porpoise caught in the nets of the Norfolk Girl boat, in Great Yarmouth.
But they untangled the animal's tail from the net, checked for injuries, took a picture of the rare catch and put it back into the sea.
David Chambers, who has been a fisherman for 40 years and sits on marine and conservation committees in the region, said: 'A fisherman's reputation is everything and the porpoise is our friend at sea.
'They show us where the mackerel are, so why would we hurt one?' he added.
'It is not worth anything, you can't eat it or stuff it and I would lose my [fishing] licence.'
James Chambers, who represented himself, told the magistrates in court: 'I love my job and one day I would like to be sitting on boards like my dad does...
'I would never kick an animal or fish.'