A Fishy Tale 1990

1990: Jim Findlay: In 1990 thirty six Police Officers were reported for fishing without a licence with prosecution recommended. Six Surrey officers were involved and were close to being charged with 'bringing the name of the Force into disrepute'. To this day, it is the only official reprimand I received in thirty five years service even though we all received 'Apologies' from the Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset Police.

Every year their force held a Police Open Team event on the River Avon. It was a well-run event on a beautiful stretch of the Avon and a good day's fishing was always on the cards. Teams from all the southern forces normally attended and the long trip was considered well worth it.

These were the days when there was no national Rod Licence. Each water authority issued their own licences so if you fished their waters you would need a temporary three day licence to cover you. The organisers of such events would obtain the licences and distribute them on the day. Payment would be made in advance to cover the cost ... no problem, normal practise.

We all turned up at the pub for breakfast and the draw to be told that the organiser had been unable to get the licences but the water authority were aware and they would be obtained the following day! Ding-a-ling-a-ling I hear you say .... but this was from a superintendent and we were hardly going to travel all that way and not fish having paid for the licence anyway.

Two hours into the match, and personally having quite a good day, I could hear a commotion from downstream with raised voices. I climbed the steep bank to investigate together with adjoining anglers to find Detective Superintendent Peter Slade from the Metropolitan Police nose-to-nose with an Environment Agency bailiff who was telling him to pack up his gear and leave the water!

A tense peace was eventually brought to the situation when Superintendent John Steel, the organiser, was summoned from his peg some distance away and we were able to resume fishing but not before all our details were taken and all reported. The angling press had a field day of course and as a team, we suffered the threat of internal action from our Force disciplinary system.

It transpired that John Steel had tasked one of his minions to get the licenses and didn't know about it until the day before. He rang the Environment Agency to explain the situation and ask them for a blanket-cover and was apparently told 'not to worry and pay for them the next day'. As you can imagine, there was little love lost between the Environment Agency and the Police for many years following that incident.

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