Portsmouth fisherman fined £2,000 for sailing boat into harbour as navy defused 500lb bomb

A FISHERMAN has been condemned for his '˜foolish' actions in breaching a harbour-wide cordon while divers dealt with a 500lb unexploded wartime bomb.

Saturday, 19th May 2018, 7:00 am
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 8:35 am
Fisherman Sean Bacon outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court

Former skipper Sean Bacon, 32, was fined £2,000 for sailing his father’s boat Swordfish into the exclusion zone despite repeated warnings from the Queen’s Harbour Master.

Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court heard he had grown frustrated with the number of times Portsmouth Harbour was shut due to Second World War ordnance being dredged up during preparations for aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth.

Former boat skipper Bacon, of Bredenbury Crescent, Paulsgrove, had left his fishing equipment in the harbour on February 22 and feared Storm Doris, due to hit the next day, would wash away his nets and pots.

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Fisherman Sean Bacon outside Portsmouth Magistrates' Court

But now Ministry of Defence police, the navy divers’ commanding officer and the judge in court criticised his actions for ‘distracting’ the navy team working to defuse the huge bomb on the water’s surface.

Sentencing Bacon, who has not worked since the incident, district judge Anthony Callaway said: ‘The matter is made very much more serious because of the presence of the unexploded ordnance.

‘It was all hands to deal with that situation and you made matters very much worse by your actions.’

Two command vessels were dispatched to Bacon to ‘enforce’ the exclusion zone.

Inspector Luke Halls, police operations inspector for MOD police at HMNB Portsmouth, said: ‘The health and safety of those working to make safe highly unstable, live war time ordnance in such situations is of paramount importance.

‘The MOD police will always pursue those who, by their foolish or reckless actions, endanger not only their own lives, but also those of the disposal teams and other personnel deployed legitimately at the scene in their support.’

Commander Del McKnight, commanding officer of Fleet Diving Squadron, said: ‘Safety exclusion zones are put in place to ensure the safety of the public when Royal Navy Divers are dealing with unexploded ordnance.

‘Distractions such as the incursion dealt with in court do not help when delicate work is required that often needs a great deal of concentration.’

Unemployed Bacon admitted a charge of conduct endangering ships, structures or individuals under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995, and two charges under the Dockyard of Portsmouth Order 2005: failing to navigate with due care and attention and breaching an exclusion zone.

Edward Hayes, mitigating, said dad-of-three Bacon was now estranged from his father, the boat had been sold and he accepted he would not work as a skipper.

‘What he says is this – over the course of the proceeding months Portsmouth Harbour had been closed on at least four occasions and upon each of those occasions he had lost fishing days.

‘His family had lost money as a result, he puts it at £1,500.

‘He was particularly concerned to go out to sea that day because he expected that Storm Doris would come in the following day and if he had not retrieved his nets and pots before the storm then he would lose them.’

Mr Hayes added: ‘There’s no excuse for the way he behaved, his actions were extremely ill-advised and he put others at risk as a result. He would accept that he did not stop to think about the consequences of his actions. He realises he’s been extremely stupid and he is sorry.’

Bacon, who is a carer for his autistic son, must pay a £200 victim surcharge and £300 prosecution costs. He owes £8,000 due to a previous fishing offence.