Ryan Baker (Head Baliff)
Best Practice Guidelines
Angling Club Baliffs
These Guidelines have been issued in recognition of the difficult and potentially dangerous job voluntary angling club bailiffs do to protect fisheries.
The intention is to cover the key points and areas requiring careful consideration with a view to helping protect the volunteer and ensure an appropriately high standard of delivery.
These Guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Elementary Guide to Angling Law & Fisheries Enforcement, which can be downloaded free of charge here:
The Angling Club Bailiff
In this context, a ‘bailiff’ is a person either employed by or who volunteers to assist an angling club to ensure compliance of fishery rules and local byelaws. In law, however, the angling club bailiff is known as a ‘Water Keeper’ and should not be confused with
a ‘Water Bailiff’. The latter can only be appointed by the Environment Agency (EA) and have statutory powers provided by the Salmon & Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975. Angling club bailiffs, therefore, have no powers in law beyond those of any citizen and this must be understood from the outset. Notwithstanding the actual legal definition, ‘bailiff’ in this Guide refers to the angling club official and not warranted EA Fisheries Enforcement Officers (FEO).
Typically angling clubs will either own or rent the waters fishable by their members.
Invariably, all angling clubs, wisely, have various rules binding their members. In order to deal with infringements, clubs will have a set disciplinary procedure. The bailiff’s function therefore, is essentially to: -
As previously explained, bailiffs have no powers in law beyond that of the ordinary citizen. However, they are empowered by their angling club to uphold club rules. If, for example, an angler is discovered fishing without permission, the bailiff can ask the individual to quit the water and/or report the matter to the police. Poaching – fishing without permission – is a criminal offence, in fact, under Schedule 1 of the Theft Act 1968. The theft of fish (from enclosed waters) should also be reported to the police. Contraventions of local byelaws, such as taking under-sized fish, or fishing out of season, must be reported to the EA. It is always best, of course, to report offences either at the time or immediately practicable to do so. When dealing with contraventions of club rules, the relevant protocol particular to the club or fishery would have to be observed. This would, however, undoubtedly include taking the offender’s details and reporting the matter accordingly to the committee.
In Harm’s Way?
Approaching strangers on the bank can be a potentially dangerous scenario – because you just do not know who these people are. All anglers, of course, have a legal excuse to carry a knife, and the EA confirm that more FEO’s are assaulted when checking rod licences than when engaged on any other enforcement activity. For these reasons bailiffs need to very carefully consider the advice contained in the subsequent sections on Conflict Resolution, Health & Safety and Risk Assessment. The essential message is: safety first. It is also worth remembering that evidence is always stronger when corroborated, so that, in addition to personal safety, is another reason why bailiffs should work in pairs, if at all possible.
Professional law enforcement personnel, such as police and EA warranted Water Bailiffs, receive comprehensive training in the law and Conflict Resolution. The following is an overview, taken from that all-important training, of how to recognise and avoid potential conflict, so that you can make an exit if necessary, before the situation deteriorates. The outcome of physical conflict cannot be predicted, and may result in serious injury or litigation. If in doubt, report the situation to the police.
This is a model which demonstrates how the attitude we present to people affects how they respond to us. An aggressive tone, for example, when first encountering others can lead to a similar response and a downward spiral of interaction follows. When dealing with others, be firm and fair and act in a way you would expect others to act towards you.
As tempers flare, there are a number of indicators that a situation may be heading towards conflict. It is important to recognise these warning signs:-
If the verbal and posturing warning signs are not recognised and/or dealt with, the encounter is in danger of descending into a physical confrontation. This is usually preceded by danger signs. There may be only a few seconds between these danger signs and an assault, so now is the time to consider a swift exit!
As has been stated, physical force should be avoided by water keepers. However, the law allows for ‘reasonable force’ to be used in the prevention of crime and other specified circumstances. Section 3 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 states that: -
“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large”.
In the UK, use of force by one individual on another is considered unlawful unless it is used to:-
If force is used in self-defence, or in any of the above circumstances it must be ‘reasonable’. Ultimately, you may have to justify your actions in a court of law.
The influx of migrants from Eastern Europe has led to issues here, because in those countries fish are regarded purely as food and there is little concept of private fishing. The language barrier is another issue. However, the Angling Trust recommends that fisheries display multi-lingual signage, which can be downloaded free of charge here:
The Trust also provides multi-lingual leaflets explaining our angling laws, free copies of which can be obtained from the Trust. It is highly recommended that bailiffs carry supplies of these whilst patrolling.
Although there are problems, it must be equally acknowledged that not all migrants contravene our angling laws but do practise catch and release. Indeed, many angling clubs have been grateful for this influx of new members – and tackle shops for their business. When approaching migrant anglers, therefore, the bailiff must do so fairly
It may well be that problems with migrants can be resolved through education and integration. The Trust seeks to address this issue and assist angling clubs through the ‘Building Bridges’ project – which educates migrant anglers accordingly and encourages integration fishing events. A free translation service is also provided British angling clubs, to ensure their rules are available in various languages. For further information and assistance, please contact Rado Papiewski:
It is a statutory requirement for every angler in England & Wales to have a relevant valid rod licence. A rod licence, holder, however, no longer has any power to demand and inspect that of another; only EA FEOs and the police are empowered to check rod licences. However, angling clubs can make it a condition that members must possess a valid rod licence – and make non-compliance an internal disciplinary offence. To avoid complications with bailiffs demanding sight of licences on the bank, Best Practice would be to only issue a day ticket or club card upon sight of a valid licence at point of sale.
Poaching: the BIGGER Picture
It is becoming increasingly recognised that individuals involved in poaching are often engaged in a much wider range of criminality, and therefore of interest to various enforcement agencies. The new National Rural Crime Strategy, in fact, seeks to increase public confidence in the police throughout rural areas, and increase intelligence – information – reported from it. Being possessed of immense local knowledge and spending much time in the countryside, anglers are an immense source of rural intelligence. Do not, therefore hesitate to call the police or EA with any information or to report an incident in progress. This cannot be over emphasised. The Angling Trust and EA is working increasingly closely with the police on a national basis throughout England, and entirely supports the work of the National Wildlife Crime Unit. Further information on the Unit and efforts to educate police officers regarding the bigger picture can be found here: -
The Angling Trust and EA are currently running the Voluntary Bailiff Service in South East England, and are keen to extend this to other areas of England. Anyone interested in getting involved should email their full name, date of birth, address and contact number to email@example.com (secure server). These details will then be entered on our database pending an invitation to formally apply as and when the initiative extends to your area. Further information on the Voluntary Bailiff Service can be found here:-