Fisherman John West landed in hot water

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FISHERMAN John West tried to get off the hook by claiming it was his identical twin in deep water with the law.

But the 30-year-old – who shares his name with the tinned fish brand – was caught out by police and fisheries officers who noticed he had a scar above his right eye, while his brother did not.

A court heard that water bailiffs had found West fishing in the River Wear near to the Radisson Blu hotel in Durham just before 11pm, on September 30, last year.

As they shone a torch on him and asked him to reel in his line to check what size hook he was using, they saw him bite through his flyline.

Once on the riverbank, he was found with hooks too big to be used legally in the river. When questioned, he gave the details of his identical twin, who was also at the scene.

Peterlee Magistrates’ Court was told the brothers, who both smelled of drink, became aggressive, and police were called to help establish their true identities. A Police National Computer check highlighted that Paul West had no scars, but John West has one above his eye.

The incident led John West to be charged with resisting or obstructing a fishery officer and contravening bylaws by using hooks exceeding size limits, offences he denied.

During the trial, both brothers said it was Paul West in the water, but dismissed claims the angler had bitten through the line, claiming it had snapped because it was snagged and that a legal fly hook was being used.

The court was told by three water bailiffs involved that the hook could not be recovered from the water and a flyline snapping was unheard of.

Paul West also told the court it should have been him on trial, although he denied any wrongdoing.

John West – who admitted in court “I’m not the best fisherman in the country” – was found guilty of both charges.

District Judge Nicholas Hayles said the brothers’ accusations that bailiffs and police were lying was a “red herring”.

He added: “They knew very well there was some doubt to their identity. They are very close looking and they have set out on the night in order to dupe them.”

John West, of Bradford Crescent, Gilesgate, Durham, was ordered to pay £400 towards costs, estimated at £1,500, and a £15 victim surcharge.

The landscape gardener, who is on Jobseeker’s Allowance, must pay a fine of £50 for obstructing an officer and £25 for using an oversized hook.

An order was made for the forfeiture of Paul West’s equipment.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham