Fisherman loses Court of Appeal case over length of trawler

Fisherman loses Court of Appeal case over length of trawler

A fisherman who went to court in a row over the length of his trawler has lost his case before the Court of Appeal.

Sea fisherman Colum Browne claimed as a result of fishing policy, he saw his trawler remeasured and registered in a smaller vessel category which affected his fish quota.

The trawler MFV Aine Ide had a licence to fish in the over-65ft category but in 2003 the Department of Transport Marine Survey Office remeasured the vessel as being 63.97ft which put it in a different category in relation to quotas.

The new measurement meant Mr Browne, from 2006 onwards, was not granted a quota authorisation in either the mackerel or herring fishery for over-65ft vessels but was granted authorisation for vessels in the under-65ft category.

He sued in the High Court in 2012 seeking damages for alleged interference with his right to earn a livelihood and declarations on fishing policy. He also sought a declaration that he was entitled in 2006 to the full renewal of his sea fishing boat licence for a boat more than 65ft in length because there had been no actual change in the length of the vessel. His action was against the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the State.

The High Court,  ruling last year on preliminary issues in advance of Mr Browne’s main action, accepted the State parties' contention that the case involved a challenge to the legitimacy of the exercise of powers or discretions and Mr Browne had not sought to challenge the decision on public law grounds and was therefore precluded from pursuing the reliefs. Dismissing the case, the court also found he had not made such legal challenges within the applicable time limits.

Mr Browne appealed the dismissal to the Court of Appeal.


The three-judge Court of Appeal, in a judgment delivered by Mr Justice John Edwards today, dismissed Mr Browne’s appeal. Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly and Mr Justice Seamus Noonan agreed.

Mr Justice Edwards said the analysis by Ms Justice Una Ní Raifeartaigh,in the High Court of the reality of the case was correct and her decision should be upheld.

Mr Browne’s proceedings, Mr Justice Edwards said, represented a collateral attack on the administrative decisions/exercises of discretion in circumstances where no application was made for leave to seek appropriate reliefs through judicial review proceedings.

The High Court judge, ruled the Court of Appeal, was correct in her primary findings that, notwithstanding how the proceedings have been framed, the claim was in reality one which sought to challenge decisions of a public law character. As a result, judicial review time limits applied and Mr Browne did not initiate his proceedings within those time limits, found the appeals court.

The High Court judge, the appeals court said, was also correct in her view Mr Browne had not demonstrated any basis that could justify an extension of time in the case.

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