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R (Guernsey) v Defra and Marine Management Organisation [2016] EWHC 1847 (Admin)

DATE: 26 Jul 2016

This case concerned the proper approach to a Fisheries Management Agreement made between the United Kingdom and Guernsey. The States of Guernsey had sought judicial review of the Government’s decision to suspend that Agreement, which had in turn led to the suspension of certain ‘reciprocal’ fishing licences by the Marine Management Organisation, allowing Guernsey fishermen to fish more than 12 nautical miles from its coast. The claim was that the decision was irrational; and/or a violation of Article 1 Protocol 1 ECHR.  The Court dismissed the claim, accepting the Defendants’ arguments that the Decisions were a rational response to a situation.  The Court agreed that the core of the agreed basis for the Agreement between the States of Guernsey and the Secretary of State had broken down. Whilst the FMA and the MoU with the Marine Management Organisation were not intended to create legally binding agreements, the Court ruled that Defra’s stance on the matter was on any view reasonable , and  went on to find that, whilst the Decisions had interfered with individual Guernsey fishermen’s A1P1 possessions, such interference was justified, in light of the broad (and unobjectionable) aims in fairly distributing fish quota, consistently with the UK’s EU and environmental obligations.  The Court also considered whether (by analogy with the position in relation to making treaties with independent sovereign states) a complaint about a decision by the government to suspend the FMA with Guernsey (for essentially diplomatic reasons) was non-justiciable. The Court’s conclusion was that the claim was justiciable, but (as above) went on to reject it on its merits.

Sasha Blackmore appeared for the Marine Management Organisation.