Angler abused fisheries officers investigating illegal fishing offence

Body-worn camera footage has helped to secure the conviction of a man from Houghton.

Callum Bell, 26, of Lyndsey Street, was fined for obstructing Fisheries Enforcement officers at Ouston, near Chester-le-Street, last June.

Body cam footage helped to secure the conviction.

Body cam footage helped to secure the conviction.

It is the first time body-worn camera footage captured by Environment Agency officers on patrol has been used to support a conviction.

The footage shows Bell using insulting and threatening behaviour towards the two officers as they investigated an illegal fishing offence.

He appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday, January 31, where he pleaded guilty to two offences of wilfully obstructing the officers in the execution of their duty, and two offences of using threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour towards the two officers.

He was fined £534 and ordered to pay costs of £530.

In a separate offence from the same incident, David Daniel Bilverstone, of Northlands in Chester-le-Street, was charged with fishing without a licence.

He failed to appear and the case was proved in his absence.

He was fined £110 and ordered to pay costs of £180.

Acting on behalf of the Environment Agency, Chris Bunting told the court that on June 18 last year, the enforcement officers were carrying out a patrol of the freshwater lake Ouston Springs when they saw Bilverstone fishing with a rod and Bell seemingly asleep on the bankside.

The court heard that one of the enforcement officers took Bilverstone aside to fill in an offence report form, and he said he goes sea fishing and claimed he didn’t know he needed a licence.

Bell then awoke and walked towards the group, when it was apparent he was affected by alcohol.

He quickly became aggressive and threatening towards the two officers, the court was told.

He tried to grab the offence report book, threatened to push them in the lake and twice lunged towards one of the officers, trying to grab the officer’s baton from its holster.

Even after the officers had finished dealing with the illegal fishing offence, he continued to shout abuse towards them from across the lake, the court heard.

When interviewed, Bell said he was drunk and hadn’t meant to obstruct the officers.

In court, he offered an unreserved apology for his actions.

Rachael Caldwell, Environment Agency enforcement team leader for the North East, said: “Bell was told on more than one occasion that he was being recorded by the cameras but he continued to be threatening and abusive.

“Our officers are doing an important job to ensure people are fishing legally and taking action against those that aren’t.

"The safety of our staff is paramount and they shouldn’t have to put up with any kind of abusive or threatening behaviour.

“This is the first time cameras worn by our officers have been used to support a conviction.

"Our preference is to prevent hostility in the first place and I hope this serves as a warning to others that their actions are being recorded and will be used in future court proceedings.

"Hopefully people will think twice before acting in such a way.”