Skipper and crew were drunk

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A skipper has been fined £600 at Lerwick Sheriff Court after setting sail while he and his crew were drunk.

Stephen Ritchie, 55, of East Moss Croft in Fraserburgh admitted being impaired when he put his fishing boat <i>Phoenix</i> to sea last year.

He pleaded guilty to allowing his crew to board the vessel, berthed at Lerwick Harbour on 2nd February, while they were intoxicated.

His son, Matthew Ritchie, 20, also of East Moss Croft, was also fined £300 and ordered to pay an extra £340 in compensation after he admitted vandalising three cars during a drunken escapade while ashore. The court heard he had “way too much to drink” and had to accept he had caused the damage to the cars in question.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said the “stupidity” of mixing the sea and drink was “blindingly obvious”.

“Time and again that has resulted in catastrophe,” he told sheriff Philip Mann.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said the skipper had let his crew go to the pub while the vessel was inspected by engineers following its arrival in Lerwick.

He said it became clear from the forecast there was a “short weather window”, during which the boat would have to leave or face being stuck in Lerwick for three days.

“He felt in a fit state to navigate the boat,” Mr Allan said.

Mr Allan said Ritchie was an experienced fisherman with 35 years’ experience.

He insisted safety at sea was something Ritchie took seriously. He had previously lost one of his sons at sea.

Mr Allan added Ritchie had spent between four and five thousand pounds coming back and fore to Lerwick a total of five times to have the case dealt with.

He said Matthew Ritchie had since moderated his drinking.

Sheriff Mann told the skipper: “You’ve already suffered tragedy on the sea and you should therefore appreciate that you should take the utmost care when dealing with your own safety and the safety of your crew.

“It is a very foolhardy thing, to put to sea whilst intoxicated, and is not to be tolerated. But I am prepared to deal with this by way of a financial penalty.”