Two brothers, who were taken to Court by Fish Legal, the legal arm of the Angling Trust, on behalf of the Gopsall Fishing Club, for dredging the River Sence in Leicestershire during the spawning season, yesterday gave the Court a binding undertaking never to dredge the river again.

Mr W. Rickard and Mr R. Rickard of Willow Brook Nurseries gave their undertakings – or binding promises – at Nuneaton County Court, following the issue of proceedings by Fish Legal.

Gopsall Fishing Club (GFC), which holds the fishing rights to the river, approached Fish Legal in 2008 after the Environment Agency failed to prosecute the brothers despite warning them in advance that they would need to apply for permissions to dredge.

The Agency failed to prosecute even after the brothers admitted that they had done so without seeking permission. Dredging and damaging spawning grounds without permission is an offence under the Local Land Drainage Byelaws and the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1976.

Fish Legal issued proceedings against the brothers, asking the Court for an injunction to prevent further dredging from taking place, but the Defendants agreed to settle the case without the need to go to a full trial.

Mark Owen, secretary of the Gopsall Angling Club commented:

“The Club has won awards from the local wildlife trust and worked closely with Twycross Zoo, the Wild Trout Trust and Natural England in improving the river habitat for fish and other wildlife including kingfishers, otters and barn owls. The timing of the dredging was as bad as could be imagined as it took place during the spawning season. It released sediments which would have settled on top of the clean gravels. It also destroyed bank areas close to an otter holt. The members of the club were therefore angered by the destruction and expected the Environment Agency to take action against the Rickards. However, the Agency decided inexplicably to drop the case against them. Now, however, we are reassured the undertaking which has been given should protect our fishery in the future.”

Justin Neal, solicitor at Fish Legal, said:

“The Environment Agency – the body charged with protecting rivers such as the Sence – simply failed to enforce against the brothers despite warning them not to dredge the river and even after obtaining admissions under caution that the brothers had done so.

One would hope that, in future, the Agency will take a tougher approach against those who damage rivers, but if it doesn’t the Angling Trust and Fish Legal will be there to do the job.”