Page last updated at 15:01 GMT, Thursday, 12 February 2009

Fisherman who faked death jailed

Derek Atkins Courtesy of MCA
Derek Atkins was jailed for two-and-a-half years

A commercial fisherman who faked his own death to thwart a Marine and Fisheries Agency (MFA) inquiry has been jailed for two and a half years.

Derek Atkins, 56, from Portsmouth, sent a false obituary for his alias of Roger Atkins to the Fishing News newspaper, the city's crown court heard.

He had previously admitted perverting the course of justice, deception and fraud, as well as 21 fishery offences.

Sentencing Atkins, Judge Ian Pearson described him as a "cunning fraudster".

'Gentleman at sea'

Atkins, who has more than 30 previous convictions, also pleaded guilty to failing to notify the authorities of name changes while on the sex offenders' register.

He had been ordered to sign the register until 2012 because of an indecent assault conviction in 2002.

The fisheries offences for which he was sentenced involved filing false logbook and catch information used by the MFA to decide fishing quotas.

No wife, no reputation, just time in jail for pretending he was dead - perhaps now he wishes he was
Brian Sharman, defending

Atkins's obituary described him "as a gentleman at sea with a great sense of humour", the court heard.

Judge Pearson told Atkins: "You are a lying, cunning, calculating fraudster - there's no other description for you."

The court heard that Atkins's deception was spotted when the MFA suspected that, using his pseudonym of Roger Atkins, he had been failing to log fishing trips.

The MFA wrote to him and received a reply stating that he had moved to Holland.

Atkins then telephoned the MFA requesting an interview but before that could take place, the investigators received another letter stating that Roger Atkins had died, the court heard.

The MFA passed the investigation over to Hampshire police, who discovered that he had been committing fraud offences while using various names from different addresses.

'Drinking problem'

One of his victims Wendy Tandy, who he met over the internet, was conned into handing over more than 3,000.

Atkins, of Allaway Avenue, was also ordered to pay her 3,000 in compensation.

Brian Sharman, defending, told the court his client, who was divorced from his wife of 20 years last year, had a drinking problem and had spent any money he had gained through his fraudulent activities in the off licence.

He also said Atkins had health problems.

"He has suffered some kind of angina attack and he now looks down the barrel of being 60 and what has he got?

"No wife, no reputation, just time in jail for pretending he was dead - perhaps now he wishes he was."

Speaking after the case, an MFA spokesman said: "Atkins had complete disregard for fishing rules designed to safeguard fish stocks and ultimately fishermen's jobs."

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Fraudster wrote his own obituary
12 Feb 09 |  Hampshire

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