§ MR. LENG
I beg to ask the Lord Advocate whether it has been brought to his knowledge that not only the nets, but the whole gear was taken by the gunboat Watchful from several steam trawlers, which were fishing within the limits in St. Andrew's Bay, on the 6th instant; whether he will state under what Act of Parliament the commanders of gunboats are authorised to seize the gear, which is of considerable value, in addition to the nets; whether he is aware that, when the cases were tried at the Sheriff Court in Cupar, on the 14th July, no copy of the Act containing such authority could be produced; and whether, if it is found that the gear was improperly seized, he will cause it to be returned to the owners of the trawlers without delay.
§ SIR H. MAXWELL
I am aware of the facts regarding the seizure of the nets and other fishing gear belonging to the trawler Skylark, on the recent occasion of her being caught fishing illegally in St. Andrew's Bay. The seizure of nets is authorised by the Herring Fishery Act of last Session. Whether or not the word "net" includes the other apparatus to which the net is attached, and which it is necessary to use for the purpose of trawling, is a question of law, depending upon somewhat minute facts about the apparatus. I am informed that when the case was tried the right to seize the gear was not questioned, but that the fact of its being seized was successfully pleaded in mitigation of sentence, the accused having tendered a plea of guilty. It is a question for a Court of Law to decide whether the seizure was illegal, but I have no doubt that if a Court held it was illegal, the owners of the nets would recover their property.