What’s worse... drinking and driving or fishing without a licence?

The law is a vast, complex and often mysterious entity. And one of its most baffling and controversial aspects is the sentences handed down to those who stray the wrong side of the law.

Friday, 21st June 2019, 8:00 am
Thornton on Thursday column with Peterborough Telegraph's deputy editor Nigel Thornton - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

There’s barely a week goes by when the PT doesn’t carry a report on a court case where the punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime. Usually, it’s because the sentence appears ludicrously light.

But last week there was the opposite. Four anglers in Cambridgeshire were fined £440 each for a variety of fishing offences, including one for ‘having too great a distance between rod butt ends’ whatever the heck that means.

As you can tell I’m no fisherman (legal or illegal) and I don’t condone the actions of these four anglers.

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I wouldn’t even question the size of the fine handed out to them were it not for the fact that every week I read the court listings which are put on the PT’s website.

This week, and this is by no means exceptional, you’ll find one drink-driver is fined £346,another £350.

Another is fined just £120 which is not much more than it costs me to fill up my car with diesel.

I don’t know the full details of all these cases (nor the financial circumstances of the defendants) but on the face of it the punishments seem bizarre in comparison to the anglers, even though, of course, the drink drivers were also banned from the road.

Surely as a society we don’t think hooking a fish or two out of a river without a licence is worse behaviour than getting behind the wheel of the car after drinking beyond the limit?

Those drink-drivers, as we know from other tragic cases, could have taken innocent lives.

I can’t see how those anglers, even if they had hired an Icelandic trawler to fish the Nene, are deserving of a bigger fine.