Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The coming 3rd court appearance on the spanish fisherman.

The 3rd Court date for the Spanish Fisherman

As the 3rd Court date comes and before we all escalate the issue unnecessarily – time to stop and think. The time has come to separate the two issues. The court case is about BREAKING THE Nature Protection Act in Gibraltar territorial Waters – end of!

The other issue that we have – which is NOT part of the court case is the GUARDIA CIVIL incursions in our British Gibraltar Territorial Waters! This is the issue that UK Government and Foreign Commonwealth Office have to deal with and soon!

We are all in agreement that our laws are loud and clear about the fishing. We are all in agreement that no one is above the laws! We all agree that Gibraltar does not live off the commercial fishing either!

The important factor here and caution has to be taken is that this is not a POLITICAL matter but the law and how it stands – not how people think it stands or want to interpret it! Whether you have been allowed to do something illegal is no excuse to override the laws and this is for everyone no matter who you may be! 

To deviate from the facts is a dangerous path to walk as also it is to turn this into a political issue. Both have to remain separate. Politics do not and must never intervene with the law of the land or sea or air!

We have to tread very carefully if not Spain will think like Argentina did with the Falklands. Spain and its people have to know and respect our laws and not that we are weak in our laws and in protecting the integrity of our British territorial Waters!

So what exactly is our issue with the Spanish fishermen in general?

Our issue is that our laws are being allowed to be broken and with no consequences to those who break it from Spain. We want our laws to apply to everyone or no one. So in essence if a local person cannot use raking then we do not expect our law enforcement to turn a blind eye to the laws being broken by a non-local.

Unfortunately for us a normal local issue of people breaking the laws of another country has been turned into a political issue and in fact even to European level. The Spanish Government have turned the whole saga into “who owns Gibraltar” or “Gibraltar waters”. It is clear to them who own Gibraltar – I mean you have only to be blind not to see the obvious sign of our British Flag! They are also using the fisherman in this case as a poor fisherman trying to fish – what they fail to say is that SPAIN does not allow those fishing methods in their country but yet are using him in their war of words and actions against Gibraltar! 

Yes thankfully we do not live off the fishing industry but that is not an open door to everyone else who does no matter the country they are from to break our laws!

So instead they highlight the water issue in the midst of what should never have escalated to the level it has now. It has now become a problem of the Sovereignty of our waters! 

Our hope is that the Law will not be controlled by other political influences and does what it is meant to do – which is very clear cut on the law of Gibraltar. Our laws do not permit raking and illegal nets etc to be used in our waters. The law needs to be clear cut on what are Gibraltar’s Waters again without entering the Political influences but fact according to our Nature Protection Act. Also on the other 3 charges – the police have to prove he was driving dangerously and that he was obstructing them doing their job. Again this has to be done without political intervention or influence.

Let us not allow any mockery of our Laws and Legal justice system!

Anne-Marie Struggles
Below is what our Gibraltar Chronicle has on this subject:

“None of the charges have been dropped...”
by Brian Reyes

The Gibraltar Government plans to publish the long-awaited fishing report soon after the Easter break, together with a draft of a new legislative framework for fishing in Gibraltar waters.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the new framework was close to completion and would regulate activities in the marine environment ranging from fishing to diving.
The regulations, he said, would provide “…a very structured approach to all of the issues we have to deal with.”
The Chief Minister made the comments in an interview on GBC during which he was asked about the fishing row and the continued presence of Spanish trawlers in Gibraltar waters. He recognised that the process of preparing the new legislative framework and resolving the dispute had dragged on for longer than anticipated.
But he said part of the problem was that since the 1999 fishing agreement, the Spanish fishermen had been told they were acting legally even though they were in fact breaching Gibraltar’s nature laws.
“The process will have to take its time,” Mr Picardo said.
“You can’t build Rome in a day, and after 13 years of telling people ‘come to Gibraltar and break our laws’, the process of re-establishing law and order and the rule of law is taking longer than any of us might want.”
Mr Picardo added: “No one likes to see people flouting our laws.”
“I hope that soon the position will be completely different and the publication of the regulations that we are going to propose is also going to have a dramatic effect on that.”
Court Case
The Chief Minister’s comments came against the background of renewed interest in the fishing row just days before the case of the La Linea fisherman is due back in the Magistrates Court.
Francisco Gómez Elias, the captain of the La Linea fishing boat Divina Providencia, is alleged to have committed four offences in British Gibraltar territorial waters.
The case is down for a mention in court on Friday morning.
Speculative reports in the Spanish media yesterday suggested that three of those charges had been withdrawn. In fact, all four remain in place.
“None of the charges have been dropped,” said Patrick Canessa, the fisherman’s lawyer.
The first of the four counts alleges that Sr Gómez used a rake to harvest shellfish from British waters on contravention of the Nature Protection Act.
The second count alleges that he navigated the vessel Divina Providencia in a dangerous manner.
The last two counts allege that he obstructed police officers carrying out their duty.
Possible outcomes
Friday’s court appearance is a routine mention, not a trial, and there are two possible outcomes.
The most likely is a further adjournment, either for another mention or for the trial itself.
It is also possible that Sr Gómez could enter pleas for the various charges he faces. If he admits the more substantive offence, there is also a chance – in theory at least - that the lesser charges could be withdrawn.
Last night however, that scenario seemed unlikely, not least because Sr Gómez was maintaining a defiant attitude in public.
“It was suggested to me that charges could be withdrawn if I accepted that I was fishing with illegal equipment in Gibraltar waters, but I’m not willing to do that because it is against my principles,” he told reporters.
The issue of jurisdiction is a key element of this case.
Sr Gómez has said publicly on numerous occasions that he believed he was in Spanish waters, a position in line with Madrid’s political stance that Gibraltar has no territorial waters outside of the port.
However the fact that the fisherman accepted the court summons and appointed a lawyer here means that, in practical terms at least, he has already recognised Gibraltar’s jurisdiction.
If the case proceeds to trial, this will almost certainly be one of the key issues for legal argument from the outset.
Cautious Picardo
Against the background of the heated speculation generated by this case, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo adopted a cautious attitude when asked about the issue during the ‘Direct Democracy’ interview on GBC on Monday night.
He described the charges against the La Linea fisherman as “a test case” and said the law must be allowed to run its course.
“This is not political,” Mr Picardo said. “This is the law. There are courts involved.”
“I think that is going to be a very salutary moment for people, especially those who are breaking our laws.”

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