Skipper of Scots vessel impounded in France ‘hopes to go home soon’

Jondy Ward, captain of the Scottish-registered scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan, appeared at the Court of Appeal in Rouen.

Skipper of Scots vessel impounded in France ‘hopes to go home soon’ Email

The skipper of a Scottish vessel which has been held in France amid the row over post-Brexit fishing licences has said he hopes to go home soon.

Jondy Ward, captain of the scallop dredger Cornelis Gert Jan, appeared at the Court of Appeal in Rouen on Wednesday.

A decision will be made before midnight on whether to release the vessel from Le Havre, as well as the size of the bail.

After the roughly hour-long hearing, which was not open to the public, Mr Ward told reporters outside the court: “I hope to get home at some stage, today or at a later date.”

He is free to leave Le Havre but wants to remain with his boat, according to his lawyer Mathieu Croix.

Mr Croix said the action taken by the French authorities in the case has been “over the top”.

He said: “We’re clearly caught in a political game as there is a whole story spun around this entire case, whereas in fact it is a rather mundane affairs over fishing in an area that is supposedly out of bounds and about licences that may or may not have been given and catch amounts that are relatively modest.

“From then on, given the current political climate, the case blew up to levels that in our view are totally disproportionate.”

Mr Croix added the bail bond of 150,000 euros (£127,000) demanded by the French authorities is excessive, considering the total value of the produce on board was around 5,000 euros (£4,200).

Mr Ward has been charged with illegal fishing without a licence in French territorial waters.

The Irish skipper faces trial next August regardless of Wednesday’s ruling, but the charges could be dropped before then.

The produce that France says the Cornelis Gert Jan caught illegally in its waters was seized by French maritime police, according to Mr Croix.

Mr Ward was arrested by French maritime police along with his crew off the Normandy coast last week.

The vessel was ordered to divert to the port of Le Havre, where it has remained since then, after the French authorities said it was fishing in French waters without a licence.

Macduff Shellfish, the owner of the boat, has said the vessel was fishing legally in French waters and had been caught up in the Franco-British dispute over fishing arrangements.

At the centre of the spat are the licences for small French boats, which are issued only if the vessels can demonstrate a history of fishing in British waters.

French President Emmanuel Macron had warned that Paris could block British boats from landing their catches in French ports and tighten customs checks in protest against what it claims is a refusal by the UK authorities to grant licences to French boats.

But France suspended the threats at the 11th hour as negotiations continued, a move welcomed by Britain.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK Government’s position had not changed and the UK would continue to work to resolve the disagreement.

Brexit minister Lord Frost and France’s Europe minister Clement Beaune are set to hold talks in Paris on Thursday.

Meanwhile, talks organised by the European Commission to find a solution to the dispute have led to a “better understanding of the outstanding issues”, a commission spokesman has said.

Speaking at a press briefing on Wednesday, the spokesman said officials from the UK, France, Jersey and the European Commission have been meeting for the past two days.

He said: “These talks have allowed us to chart the way forward on several aspects and have created a positive dynamic aiming at a solution. The technical meetings will continue today, including also with some officials from Guernsey.

“The talks in these past few days have allowed for a better understanding of the outstanding issues which have been impeding quicker progress, and we hope that the positive engagement on all sides will soon translate into concrete results.”

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