EXCLUSIVE - Governor, Police Authority and RGP conspire to undermine Gibraltar Sovereignty in selective illegal Fishing Enforcement

Leo Olivero

Equality lies at the heart of the rule of law. From the ordinary Gibraltarian or local resident, the Main St shop owner, companies, businesses, organisations and even politicians. Everyone should be bound equally and entitled to the laws of the land: 

EXCEPT... it seems illegal fishing in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters ‘BGTW’ by Spanish vessels and crew!

RGP Selective Enforcement of Illegal Fishing in BGTW Undermines Our Sovereignty

Recent articles, including over many years regarding the high profile issue of illegal fishing in BGTW has again re-opened in the public debate. And again raising serious questions about what should be the priorities for the police. Particularly how they should interpret these pertinent law(s) that are environmental laws in nature. But for historical, political and geographical reasons have huge sovereignty related implications, simply because of Spain’s on going sovereignty claim threat over Gibraltar, which shows no sign of abating, on the contrary as we continue to hear from Madrid and Brussels!

The focus recently has been directed at the RGP and the quite openly selective enforcement policy the police have adopted to tackle illegal fishing by Spanish vessels in BGTW.

This is a totally flawed operational policing policy that tackles nothing; less so, illegal fishing in BGTW it goes to the very core and concept of the ‘Rule of Law’.

Dangerous Situation Created

A dangerous situation has been created where as enforcers of laws; the police are selecting which laws they want to enforce though there are a range of actions available to them. Particularly when policing illegal fishing in BGTW when the only selective enforcement decision by the police is to take no action at all. The latter police action is the current policy, officially described by the RGP in the past and recently and last week by the Gibraltar Police Authority ‘GPA’ as a “proportionately challenging potential breaches of the law” when in fact this is not the case, because the opposite is evidenced on most days by the public themselves on social media!

It is a revoltingly wrong that one group of people, ‘Spanish fisherman on board vessels’ are allowed to regularly and deliberately flout the law, which they later boast about in their crummy run down bars just over the border and get away with it, while locals are policed by the book or as the law prescribes.

People who monitor these non-policing enforcement activities are members of the public, who spend hours recording the many unlawful Spanish fishing activities and post them on social media.

And whether the Commissioner likes it or not his enforcement policy ‘Undermines the Sovereignty of Gibraltar’. Commissioner McGrail instead of ‘practising policing-politics’ in BGTW should get down to plan and tackle those real issues which really affect members of this community, instead of embarking on an over the top publicity campaign promoting the RGP as it was a major arm or division of some international policing body which the RGP Commissioner seriously believes Gibraltar is at the core of ‘international police cooperation.’ This, with only 200 odd officers, and while the RGP has been begging the Government of Gibraltar for more officers who have obliged, by allowing the recruitment of a further 50 officers which includes a transfer of some civilian policing posts that will be police roles.

Everyday Rule of Law

I mentioned earlier, the ‘rule of law’. Why is the daily impact of the rule of law important, well it is with the flawed illegal fishing enforcement policy that goes to the very heart of the important rule of law concept that impacts our daily lives.

Certain people in high places appear to miss the importantly massive point regarding the rule of law. Because without the rule of law, or when the rule of law breaks down, the effective enforcement of rights becomes an issue, there shouldn’t be a distinction between having a law on the books and its implementation, but there is when it comes to illegal fishing in BGTW.

However, there does need to be accessible, impartial and effective accountability mechanisms in place such that when there is a complaint that the government or a private actor violated rights or laws or when as in this case, where the Commissioner of Police looks to have some heavy backing and is being encouraged to ride roughshod on an important related operational police activity with clear sovereignty implications that could affect all us.

Police Discretion to a Limit!

But if everyone is hiding behind the now over used comment ‘that enforcement of the law is an operational matter for the Police to determine’ well, they should bloody get involved!

Because while police officers are given enormous discretion to choose which laws to enforce it changes when ‘SERIOUS ISSUES’ appear when police or as in this case the Commissioner’s decision may be questionable...this is one of them!

And if the present illegal enforcement issue is not questionable to the Governor, GPA and the Government then they should all inform the public why?

The predictability or expectedness that comes with the rule of law helps us all to develop and thrive, the RGP’s illegal enforcement policy removes all that but also from a purely national perspective also clearly undermines the Rock’s sovereignty which the Police Commissioner, the Governor, GPA and the Gibraltar Government should not have to be reminded about.

Panorama in recent weeks has posed a number of press questions to all the above senior players. Our questions on this important point have either been ignored, dodged or in the case of the Convent or FCO they attempted to be clever without success, by condensing a number of questions this newspaper posed into one answer, but without replying at all (twice) to the primary question of sovereignty or their perspective to this high profile enforcement policy by the RGP.

The Police say they are active and enforce these laws, but again after similar repeated questions the RGP refuse to supply details on the amount of illegal fishing incidents they have been active in enforcing. Unlike the figures provided by the Government regarding operational activities by the environmental enforcement agency where figures were sent to us on their enforcement activities...(see all Panorama questions sent in next pages)

RGP’s Illegal Fishing Enforcement Policy Sanctioned by Governor and GPA

The RGP’s enforcement policy on illegal fishing in BGTW by Spanish fishing vessels is obviously sanctioned by the Governor and the GPA at the detriment of weakening Gibraltar’s sovereignty position.

In fact, in my opinion, this operational enforcement policy is low in its standards, uncertain in ‘its application, and in its resolution to clear BGTW of consistent illegal fishing. But it places our sovereignty and jeopardises many other related implications as it has always done:

It’s suddenly not the opposite because the Commissioner or the Governor believes it to be without offering the people of Gibraltar an explanation!

Any why is it not surprising that the number of Spanish Fishermen arrested, reported or warned by the Police is so negligible they refuse to supply figures or information regarding any types of related offences.

This is also the reason why Police bodies like the GPA since they were created in 2006 within the framework of the then new Constitution are hopeless in overseeing policing. This has been proven time and again. Policing has not improved in Gibraltar. It has certainly become more expensive. No one appears to care or comment why a police commissioner can adopt selective enforcement policies on such a high profile issue of great public interest with direct sovereignty implications and not a senior soul cares.

Readers can be assured Panorama will not let this issue rest. This important matter will not go away, especially with the summer season now a few weeks away and the expected increase in leisure and fishing activity by locals, where yearly incidents and action takes place in BGTW will be carefully monitored by all!