“It was just an ordinary bit of post-pub ruckus – everybody had had a few pints and this argument broke out. At first it was just a bit of pushing and shoving, then this bloke reached inside his jacket and pulled out a pilchard!” Twenty four year old Portsmouth tyre fitter Brian Snellsmead describes the beginning of a terrifying new phenomena which is sweeping Britain – fish battery. “He just lunged at me with it – at first, with the moonlight glinting off of it, I thought it was a knife, then I realised it was a fish! I was shitting myself! I put up my hands to try and defend myself, but he still managed to smack me across the nose with it! It was horrible! All slimy and cold! And the smell!” A simple brawl quickly escalated into a full scale fish fight as one of Brian’s companions responded to the pilchard attack by producing a mackerel. “It just all kicked off then,” recalls Brian, still nursing a black eye and nasty rash across the bridge of his nose. “People just started pulling out bigger and bigger fish! When I saw one bloke being beaten to the ground with a turbot, I decided it had all got out of hand and legged it before the police got there!” When they did arrive, the police found themselves confronted by the terrible aftermath of the fight: a pub car park littered with prone, slime-spattered bodies, fish scales and entrails. Several officers are still receiving counselling for the trauma caused by this discovery. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Scenarios similar to the one described by Snellsmead are occurring all over Britain as fish crime soars. Police are becoming increasingly worried by the phenomenon, believing that it is only a matter of time before someone is killed. “It might sound like some kind of joke – but being slapped by a fish constitutes a very serious assault,” explains Superintendent Jock Ballacks of Hampshire Constabulary. “Whilst being walloped with something the size of, say, an adult sea bass could cause major, even life threatening, internal injuries, even the smaller fish can do serious damage. Only last week an old lady in Eastleigh was nearly blinded by loose fish scales after having a herring thrust in her face by a mugger!” Worryingly, fish are no longer the weapon of choice for just juvenile delinquents, street thugs and petty criminals; increasingly professional villains are turning to them in preference to traditional pickaxe handles and shooters. “We’ve recently had a case where a debt collector used a conger eel to beat a defaulting debtor half to death,” says Ballacks. “From the criminals’ point of view the fish is very much the perfect weapon. It is so easily disposed of – feed it to the cat, eat it yourself or even use it to fertilise your roses! Even if we do recover it, forensics are virtually impossible to get from a fish – too slippery to take fingerprints, you see!”

In a pioneering move, Hampshire police have, for the past month, been running a ‘fish amnesty’, inviting members of the public to anonymously hand in to police stations any fish they might be illegally holding. “The response has been incredible,” says Sergeant Andy Clitt, of Alton police station, as he displays some of the fish handed in during the amnesty. “Even in a small town like this, it is amazing the sort of things which have been turned in: everything from sardines – favoured by street gangs for their ease of concealment – to swordfish! The latter really are deadly – one of our constables was attacked with one whilst breaking up a fight the other day. If he hadn’t been wearing his stab vest, he’d have been a goner for sure!” Clitt’s collection even includes a couple of sawn-off tuna. “They’re often favoured by bank robbers – with the head removed they’re easier to hide down your trousers, but are still big enough to pack a punch,” he explains. “Mind you, the one I can’t explain is the fifteen foot oarfish we found dumped outside – far too big and unwieldy to be of much use to real criminals!” Despite the good public response, Clitt admits that, in Alton at least, the amnesty hasn’t run entirely smoothly. “Unfortunately, our refrigeration unit broke down on the hottest day of the year – before we knew it, the whole station had become uninhabitable due to the stench of rotting fish,” he admits. “It clung to everything – carpets, furniture, clothing, the lot. For days afterwards officers out on the beat found themselves having to fight off gangs of cats.” This setback notwithstanding, Clitt believes the amnesty has been a worthwhile exercise, having succeeded in taking thousands of fish off of the streets of Hampshire. “I’d just like to point out that there is still time to hand in your fish – no questions will be asked,” he says. “Remember, if you are carrying fish in a public place without good reason, then you could be committing a criminal offence!”

Many commentators are blaming the rise in piscean crimes on the increased availability of fresh fish and the lack of restrictions on their sale to under-sixteens. “It’s bloody ridiculous – children as young as six or seven can just walk into a supermarket and buy these potentially lethal weapons from the fresh fish counter without question,” fumes Tory backbencher Trevor Panker, who is calling for tighter controls on fish sales. “In my day you could only get them from dingy back-street fishmongers who sold them for ridiculously high prices! The proliferation of cheap and easily available fish is just fuelling street crime!” The Sleaze decided to find out just how easy it really is for children to buy fish, sending a group of children to the fish counters of three well known supermarkets. Shockingly, all returned with shopping bags full of glistening wet fish, ranging from mackerel to salmon. One supermarket had even allowed a ten year old to purchase a Dover sole, renowned in street-fighting circles as one of the deadliest of all fish. However, when confronted with the evidence, the retailers seemed unconcerned. “We have no policy on fresh fish sales whatsoever – as long as they aren’t past the sell-by date, we don’t care who purchases them,” a spokesperson for Britain’s biggest supermarket chain told The Sleaze. “We are not aware of any of our fish being used for illegal purposes – we were under the impression that most people ate them.” Panker isn’t surprised by the supermarkets’ attitude. “It is a well known fact that nobody in this country actually eats fish unless it is battered and served with chips, yet they continue to stock vast quantities and varieties of the stuff,” he says scornfully. “They know full well that this produce is being used for criminal purposes – why else would stores located near council estates be stocking so much trout and salmon?” Nevertheless, despite Panker’s campaigning and the Hampshire fish amnesty, the government is refusing to restrict fish sales – or even acknowledge that fish battery is on the rise. “Two or three isolated assaults involving fish does not constitute a trend,” a Home Office spokesperson told us. “If they hadn’t all been reported in the tabloids during a single slow news week, nobody would bloody care, let alone know!”