Canoeists on the River Tees, in Teesdale, could face trespass prosecution
By Stuart Laundy - Senior Reporter
CANOEISTS tackling the Tees rapids have been warned they could face prosecution for trespass if they clash with river anglers. The issue was raised at the annual meeting of the Barnard Castle Angling Club when chairman Dennis Hinchcliffe reported problems during a recent fishing event.
Mr Hinchcliffe said he was aware of five complaints during a fly fishing weekend on the Tees organised at the end of October by the Tees Rivers Trust and Olly Shepherd, a member of the angling club's committee and proprietor of Yorkshire Fly Fishing.
Mr Hinchcliffe said canoeists were not keeping a wide enough berth and interfering with anglers’ lines. The weekend saw more than 120 anglers take to the river. The event was organised to promote the Tees as a salmon fishing river.
However, the river is also popular with canoe clubs and kayakers who particularly enjoy riding the rapids near the Abbey Bridge.
Andy Naylor, from the Environment Agency, who attended the angling club’s AGM, told members there were options open to them if problems were encountered with canoes. He explained that while the club did not own the water, it had rights over the river bed on the stretches of bank it either owned or leased.
“If they [canoes] are on your water, they are trespassing, but this is a civil offence, not criminal,” said Mr Naylor.
“There are things you can do but it costs money.”
The first would be to speak to the canoeist and get their name and details, he said.
“Then you decide between yourselves whether to put a civil action against them and for that you need to go to a solicitor. You have got your civil rights.” He said if an altercation turned abusive towards an angler, they would be within their rights to phone the police and report it – in which case this would be a criminal matter.
“If the police will do it, they will put as file into the Crown Prosecution Service.”
The meeting was told both canoeists and anglers would quite often wear “GoPro” action cameras which could record any incidents.
The comments were noted.
Ben seal, of British Canoeing, said: "As the National Governing Body for Canoeing in England, we promote fair, shared and sustainable access on water for all users.
"The issue of access is a complex and sensitive one and as such we have recently launched our Access and Environment Charter which calls for clarity on the rights of all water users.
"Our position on the rights of the public to access water is very clear; we believe everyone should be able to enjoy fair, shared, sustainable open access on water.
"Our position on trespass is laid out in our Trespass policy. Until such a time the law can be clarified, we advocate responsible shared usage for all parties on all navigable rivers."