This case involved a angler who was observed by fisheries guardians to be in possession of two recently caught salmon with fish tags that had been affixed in a manner that allowed them to be removed and re-used. At trial, the anglers son gave evidence that he placed drinking straws into the locking mechanism without his father’s knowledge or consent.
After a useful review of the law of mistake of fact and a review of the evidence, the court concluded as follows:
The defence of mistake of fact requires an honest belief, reasonably held. As pointed out earlier, I am satisfied that Mr. Patey honestly believed that his tags had been properly applied by his son. In this case, considering the nature of their relationship, this was reasonable. This does not mean that a licence holder can automatically escape liability by delegating a statutory obligation to someone else nor does it relieve a licence holder from checking to ensure that the other person has affixed a tag in accordance with the legislation. In certain cases, such a delegation will not afford an accused person a defence to a charge under section 6(4) of the Wild Life Regulations.
In this case the defence of mistake of fact applies because Mr. Patey acted in both an honest and reasonable fashion. There was no reason for Mr. Patey to be suspicious of his son nor any reason for him to have immediately checked the tags after his son attached them to the salmon. It was reasonable for Mr. Patey to trust his son and to rely upon him. If Mr. Patey had checked the tags and failed to immediately ensure that they were properly attached, or if he had, as Mr. Wilcox did, noticed their condition, then the defence of mistake of fact might no longer apply. However, neither of those scenarios occurred in this case.