Fisherman rescued from sinking boat is fined for being over the limit

A fisherman has been handed a £1,000 fine after he was rescued from his sinking vessel only for the winch man to smell alcohol when he helped him to safety.

James Black, 45 from Virkie pleaded guilty to being under the influence when returning from a fishing trip in the Hope III on 8th July last year.

He appeared at Lerwick Sheriff Court yesterday. After being checked by police he was found to have 225 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood – more than four times the prescribed limit.

Procurator fiscal Duncan MacKenzie said Black was in sole charge of the 32-foot fishing boat.

A rescue helicopter was scrambled after Black contacted the coastguard. He was lifted to safety when a “strong smell of alcohol” was detected and that “caused concern”.

The police were contacted and Black failed a screening test.

Mr Duncan said Black was arrested and taken to the police station where a blood sample was taken about four hours after the call-out was made.

“The vessel subsequently sank,” said Mr MacKenzie though it was not clear what caused the vessel to sink and Black was “a very fortunate man, he could’ve died”.

Defence agent Tommy Allan said;” I think clearly the charge here is one of excess alcohol” and there was nothing to suggest Black in any way contributed to what happened to the vessel.

Black was travelling back from Fair Isle and “became aware the vessel was sluggish” and alarms were going off.

There seemed to be no issue with his conduct throughout the rescue, Mr Allan said.

Black had had the boat since 2011 and had been involved in fishing for all of his adult life and still worked in the industry, added Mr Allan.

He also struggled with depression, and was still getting treatment, the court heard.

Mr Allan said a fishing party had taken off in the boat prior to the incident. Black had taken people out who had been drinking and had left drink on the boat.

“He started to consume the alcohol that was there. In fairness to him he was not able to make coffee for himself on the boat and had nothing else to drink so he started to drink what was on board,” Mr Allan said.

“He was not sure how much he had and was surprised by the level of his count.”

“He’s very much aware of how close this was for him,” added Mr Allan.

Sheriff Philip Mann said it was a serious offence.

“I think the procurator fiscal is right to suggest that you are lucky to escape from this incident with your life. It seems to be that although you had a high count you were still functioning. That is fortunate for you but nonetheless it’s a serious matter.”


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