Sailing certificate downloaded and doctored from social network site Facebook

Police have cautioned a 29-year-old woman after she chartered a yacht off the south-coast using a sailing certificate she had downloaded from Facebook.

The charter company, based near Dorset, required to see a valid MCA/RYA Yachtmaster Certificate – one of the UK’s highest sailing qualifications – before leasing a vessel. The 29-year-old found an image of the certificate on the social networking site Facebook, which she then doctored and reproduced, claiming it was a photocopy of the genuine document.

Although the charter company accepted her credentials, the MCA investigated the incident alongside the Marine Unit of Dorset Police, and declared the certificate a forgery. The yachtswoman was taken to Bournemouth police station on 22 February, cautioned under the Fraud Act, and released. No further action was taken since the hire charges had been paid in full, and the yacht returned undamaged.

Captain Andrew Phillips of the MCA Enforcement Unit did stress, however, that there were real dangers associated with social networking sites, and asked that seafarers never publish copies of their certification online: “If you have already done so then you are strongly advised to remove them immediately.”