Suspended sentence for fisherman whose boat was not seaworthy
A RETIRED fisherman from Fethard-on-Sea whose boat was deemed not seaworthy, had rotten planking, and was unlicensed, has been given a one year's suspended prison sentence.
Declan Hearne, aged 76, who had initially denied four charges relating to his fishing boat MV Baginbun, and who subsequently changed his plea to guilty to two of the four counts, one of operating without a licence and the other operating an unsafe boat, came before Judge Barry Hickson for sentencing at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court.
Hearne, of Innyard House, Fethard-on-Sean, had pleaded not guilty to having been in command of an unseaworthy vessel in Fethard-on-Sea on August 29, 2010, and also on August 18, 2009, and July 18, 2009. He had also denied being in command of an unlicensed passenger boat on August 29, 2010, at Fethard-on-Sea.
At a previous sentencing hearing, Judge Hickson had ordered that the boat be destroyed.
Neil Forde, a Nautical Surveyor, told the court the MV Baginbun had no record of a passenger boat licence being applied for, and they had no record of one ever being issued.
He said that he had spoken with the defendant after which an examination of the vessel was carried out. He had also taken the names of four passengers who had been on the boat. He said that on examination the vessel was found to be in very poor condition.
Mr. Forde said he could see obvious rot in the planking in the hull of the boat. He spoke with the Department's engineer in Cork and an inspection of the boat was carried out. Because of the condition of the boat, there was no option but to detain the vessel.
He said the vessel was subsequently destroyed, as instructed by the Judge at a previous hearing.
Defence Counsel John Peart told the court that from the 1970s onwards timber imported for building of boats was inferior to what had been used prior to that. He also said that substantial work with the planking had been carried out in 2005, with subsequent work carried out in 2009 and spring of 2010.
Michael Hickey told the court he had served as an officer with the Regional Fisheries Board for 21 years. He said the defendant was highly respected in the fishing industry and had given great service to this country in search and rescue missions.
Mr. Peart said the defendant is a man who has conducted himself all his life, in a manner helping to look after people at sea and it's with great regret he turns up in court accused in this manner. When it became clear he was wrong he put his hands up in this court, something that must have been very humbling for him, said Mr. Peart.
He is 76 years old and a man whose health had deteriorated badly, not helped by the court case. He admitted in public he was wrong - at the end of a very laudable career.
Mr. Peart said his client is a man with no previous convictions, who admitted he was wrong and had to accept the shame it had brought on him. He also expressed his remorse and will never go to sea again.
The defendant, he said, is not a man of means and is in receipt of the old age pension at the moment.
Recognising that Declan Hearne had done a lot of work by helping other seafarers through search and rescue and hat he's highly regarded in the seafaring world, Judge Hickson said still these were two serious charges.
There were a number of passengers on the boat and, on examination, one could see daylight through some of the timber frames.
He said the defendant had done more than most people to help people who were in difficulties but to take people out to sea in a vessel that was unseaworthy is a very serious offence.
Judge Hickson sentenced the defendant to one year in prison on both counts, to run concurrently, but said he would suspend both sentence for five years on the defendant entering into a bond of €100 to keep the peace for five years. He also imposed a fine of €1,000, allowing Declan Hearne three years to pay. If in default, he would serve one year in prison.