The skipper of a former fishing vessel has been ordered to pay £3,825 in fines and costs after pleading guilty to firing rocket distress flares when not in need of immediate help.
A red distress rocket flare was fired just before the boat torch light procession at this year's Salcombe Harbor Festival - popular with participants and spectators - landing on heathland, whilst still burning.
Harbor Master Ian Gibson identified and spoke to the culprit Matthew Yeoman, a 50-year-old from Salcombe, and owner of the converted fishing boat Etoile, as it was clear he was not in need of assistance.
Two further rocket flares were later fired further out into the harbor amongst moored boats. This resulted in calls to Brixham Coastguard and a response from the Hope Cove and Salcombe lifeboats.
Yeoman was spoken to by the lifeboat crews on his boat and admitted to firing the further flares, though not in need of assistance. The flares used by Yeoman had expired in December 2004.
When interviewed about the matter, Yeoman admitted to firing the flares, during the event, on August 8.
Yeoman appeared before Torquay Magistrates' Court today where he pleaded guilty.
In sentencing, the Court took into consideration his full cooperation with the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and his early guilty plea.
The Chair of the Bench told Yeoman: "You are a professional seaman. You should have known better."
Yeoman was fined £750 for the offence, ordered to pay costs of £3,000 and a victim surcharge of £75.
"There is only one purpose for discharging a distress flare and that is to request immediate assistance when in grave and imminent danger,” Peter Davies, Brixham Coastguard Rescue Center Manager, said. "This type of foolish action will undermine the purpose of distress flares, which are internationally recognized as a distress alerting signal. Red flare sightings will be reported to us and if it’s a false alert, it is a waste of the emergency services' time and effort. If our rescue resources are deployed investigating a false alert it could potentially put lives at risk if someone else is involved in a real emergency.”
Davies continued, "Distress flares are pyrotechnics and they rapidly ascend when fired. If handled incorrectly they can be dangerous. Thankfully, no one was injured and no property damaged - but it could have turned out very differently."