FINED: Leslie Steemson was fined $6000 just two years after receiving an $8000 fine for similar offences.
FINED: Leslie Steemson was fined $6000 just two years after receiving an $8000 fine for similar offences.

Mercy plea: Elderly crab nabber feels $8k pinch

AN ELDERLY man who made an impassioned plea to a magistrate not to fine him after breaching fisheries laws twice in two years has been fined $8000.

Leslie Michael Steemson, 77, pleaded guilty to multiple charges including obstructing an inspector and unlawful possession of regulated fish, which breach the Fisheries Act 1994.

The court heard fisheries officers had Steemson's vehicle under surveillance, and saw him return to his car from the creek with two buckets.

But when the officers identified themselves, Steemson ran away in an effort to dispose of the evidence. He later admitted to officers he knew what he was doing was illegal.

Steemson, who was shaking as he presented his handwritten submission to Magistrate Bronwyn Hartigan, said his side of the story would reveal a "whole different story".

He said for 20 years he had been caring for a Vietnamese woman who had a particularly strong craving for mud crabs, and said he felt significant pressure to supply them for her. "I don't even eat mud crabs myself," Steemson said.

Officers had found 11 female and undersized mud crabs and one regulated fish, a gold spotted rock cod.

In 2017, Steemson was fined $6000 for similar offences and no conviction had been recorded. But Magistrate Hartigan said Steemson should have known better.

"The problem here is this is your second time before the court for the same offending," Ms Hartigan said.

"You knew it was an offence, but succumbed to pressure and offended again.

"It shows flagrant disregard to court orders ..." He was fined $6000 for the taking the crabs and $2000 for obstructing the officers. When passing down her sentence, Ms Hartigan asked Steemson: "wouldn't it have been cheaper to go out for a crab?".

A conviction was recorded.