Page last updated at 16:57 GMT, Thursday, 7 May 2009 17:57 UK

No evidence from guilty fish boss

Elizabeth Stevenson
Elizabeth Stevenson runs the family company in Newlyn

A Cornish business has been criticised for not giving evidence at a hearing to decide on the confiscation of assets.

W Stevenson and Son had admitted charges relating to the illegal landing and sale of quota fish at Newlyn.

Truro Crown Court was told Elizabeth Stevenson, who runs the business, had chosen not to give evidence.

Prosecution counsel Martin Edmunds QC told the judge: "What your honour has in this case is a total absence of evidence from those who must know".

At the trial in 2007, Exeter Crown Court was told analysis showed during six months in 2002 almost a quarter of the fish landed by some of Stevenson's 20 vessels was illegal.

'Modest' sum

Cod, hake and anglerfish were described incorrectly as non-quota, lower-value species such as ling, turbot and bass and auction records were falsified.

Mr Edmunds said the Crown's figure for confiscation of at least £4m was "modest" compared to the partnership's average turnover of about £15m a year in the years concerned.

But defence counsel Philip Hackett said there was no evidence illegal landings and sales had taken place before September 2001.

He said it was wrong to demand the recovery of £1m for that year alone when the prosecution's own figures showed that the total of illegally landed fish in 2001 amounted to only £5,000.

Judge Philip Wassall will hand down his written judgement at Truro Crown Court on Wednesday 13 May.

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