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Court Appeal Ruling Welcomed By Director Of MSA

Today's Court of Appeal decision that persons other than the Director of Maritime Safety (the Director) may bring prosecutions under the Maritime Transport Act 1994 (the MTA) has been welcomed by the Maritime Safety Authority.

The matter began in the District Court when Canterbury Regional Council's Chief Executive Officer brought a prosecution under the MTA against Dong Won Fisheries Company Limited (the company). The company was convicted of operating a pilot ladder in a manner which caused unnecessary danger to other persons.

Following the conviction, the company appealed the decision to the High Court on the basis that under the MTA only the Director was entitled to bring a prosecution for an offence against the MTA or any regulations made under that Act.

The Summary Proceedings Act 1957 provides that any person may lay an information for an offence except where another Act specifies that only certain people are permitted to do so. The company's solicitor argued that the effect of section 419(1) of the MTA was to expressly prevent any person other than the Director from laying an information.

The High Court accepted the argument advanced by the company's solicitor, and quashed the District Court decision.

The Canterbury Regional Council then took the matter to the Court of Appeal arguing that the provisions of the MTA, when read together, did not prevent people or bodies (such as the police and regional councils) other than the Director from bringing prosecutions.

The Court of Appeal allowed the Canterbury Regional Council's appeal and held that section 419(1) of the MTA permits the Director to lay an information, but does not exclude others from laying an information for an offence against the MTA. The Court of Appeal said that the role of section 419(1) of the MTA is to declare and clarify the Director's powers, and that the provision should not be interpreted in a restrictive manner.

"I am very pleased at this outcome which supports the position of the Maritime Safety Authority and the close working relationships we have with regional councils and the police," said the Acting Director of Maritime Safety, Tony Martin.

ENDS....

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