Salmon poacher threatened to stab fisheries officer after scaling cliff to evade capture

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‘He said he wouldn’t do time for this and that he had a knife in this pocket and he would take it out and stab me with it’.

A wild-salmon poacher threatened to stab a fisheries officer with a knife during a chase on foot on the west Clare coastline almost two years ago, a court has heard.

At Kilrush District Court sitting in Ennis, Ireland, Judge Mary Larkin convicted John Linnane (43) of making a threat to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) officer, Raymond Byrne intending Mr Byrne to believe it would be carried out to kill or cause him serious harm at Carrowdotia, Killimer, on June 1, 2020, contrary to Section 5 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act.

According to the Irish Independent, Mr Byrne told the court that during the chase, Linnane of Griffin Road, Kilrush, said to him that “he wouldn’t do time for this and that he had a knife in this pocket and he would take it out and stab me with it”.

Mr Byrne said that he then withdrew from the scene following Linnane’s threat.

He said: “I was taken aback by what he said.”

In the earlier chase along the coastline, Linnane and an accomplice played “a game of cat and mouse” with Mr Byrne before entering deep waters in a bid to escape.

60ft-long net
The Irish Coast Guard was called in by Mr Byrne after Linnane and his accomplice entered the deep water after scaling down a cliff as they fled fisheries officers at Poulinadaree on the Shannon estuary.

Mr Byrne told the court: “I was concerned that this would turn into a bigger incident than it was.”

Mr Byrne told the court that the two tried to evade capture after they were spotted with a 60ft-long net used to illegally catch salmon.

The two were spotted as part of a surveillance operation by IFI aimed at curbing wild salmon poaching.

Linnane has previously pleaded guilty to a wild-salmon poaching offence from the day when last November admitting in court to having in his control a net for the purposes of netting fish on June 1, 2020.

On the allegation of the threat to Mr Byrne, Judge Mary Larkin told the court: “I have no doubt in my mind that what was said was said. This is a serious charge – you can’t threaten someone like that.”

Prior convictions
Linnane has two previous convictions for assault causing harm from 2018 and Judge Larkin said: “You cannot be threatening officers in the course of their duty.”

Judge Larkin said that she doesn’t intend to fill the prisons and said it is her intention to impose 100 hours’ community service on father of four and currently unemployed scaffolder, Linnane.

Judge Larkin said that the fisheries officers were “diligent” in carrying out their duties.

In an interview with gardaí in June 2020, Linnane denied making the threat to Mr Byrne.

He said: “I didn’t threaten anyone with a knife. I wouldn’t do that. I don’t carry a knife.”

Threatening to kill
In court, Linnane repeated his denials saying that he only told Mr Byrne to stop taking photos of him.

Judge Larkin adjourned the case to April for sentence.

Speaking after Linnane’s conviction, River Basin District Director with Inland Fisheries Ireland for the Shannon, David McInerney said: “Threatening to kill or cause serious harm to an officer of the State is a very serious issue and Inland Fisheries Ireland would like to thank An Garda Síochána for their help in bringing this case before the courts.

“Fisheries officers are charged with the protection of valuable and often threatened fish stocks and this work is essential to ensure the protection of Ireland’s native fish species. We have to remember that the River Shannon is closed to salmon fishing because salmon stocks are significantly below levels that maintain a healthy, sustainable population.”