The Poached Salmon

updated 11 July 2018

The solicitor

The solicitor lived and worked in a little town in Northumberland. His town lay on a riverbank. There were salmon in the river, and the fishing rights were valuable.

The local landowners clubbed together to pay for a force of water bailiffs to protect the salmon against poachers.

The client’s story

The solicitor was approached one day by a new client. The client had been charged with poaching. His story was as follows:

“On Saturday evening it was raining. I always take the dog for a walk in the evening and the dog was telling me it was time to take him for a walk.

“My coat had got dirty during the day, and I needed to wear something else. The only thing I had suitable was a wetsuit, which was hanging conveniently by the door. It was dark and no-one would see me, so I put the wetsuit on and I took the dog for his walk.

“I was trying to avoid people because I was a bit embarrassed at wearing a wetsuit, so we walked through the woods.

“I was crossing a stream in the woods when something in the stream caught my eye. I leaned over to see what it was, and a salmon leapt into my arms.

“I was so surprised I stood up straight, with the salmon still in my arms.

“Just then torch beams came at me from every direction, and a lot of men ran at me.

“They were water bailiffs, and they arrested me.

“I can understand what it looked like from their point of view. They thought I was trying to steal the salmon, when in fact it was the salmon that had leapt into my arms.

“I would have returned the salmon to the stream in the next minute if they had not all rushed at me.

“Then they charged me with poaching.

“I am not guilty.”

The solicitor established that the client already had two convictions for poaching.

The solicitor explained that the case would be tried to the Magistrates Court. It would turn on whether the magistrates believed the client.

The solicitor said that while the decision lay with the magistrates the solicitor did not think the magistrates would believe the client.

“Never mind. It is my right to have a fair trial. Just do your best.”

The trial

When the case came to trial the poacher pleaded “not guilty” and because all the water bailiffs were going to give evidence a whole day was set aside for the trial.

The solicitor did his best at the trial.

He suggested to each water bailiff that the water bailiff might have misunderstood what he saw. He put the client’s version of events to the water bailiffs. He got nowhere.

At the end of the case the client was found guilty. It was only one fish, so he was fined and not sent to prison.

The solicitor commiserated with the client. The client was not surprised that he had been convicted and he said he did not intend to appeal.

“Are you going back to the office now or going straight home?”

The solicitor said he thought he would go home. The client was most insistent that the solicitor should go to his office first, but without saying why.

Back at the office

When the solicitor got back to his office, he found his secretary looking at him strangely.

“There is something on your desk.”

The solicitor went to his room.

The desk had been cleared, and then covered with newspaper. Across the desk lay a huge fresh salmon.

“A rough looking man brought this in. He said to thank you for keeping the water bailiffs tied up at court all day and this is for you.”

For Law Students: What are the ethics issues here? What should the solicitor have done?

I heard this story at least third hand. I have no idea if it is true or who the solicitor was.