British Waterways’ unlawful abuse

We have received this message from a boater in the north west about BW’s unlawful enforcement practices:

British Waterways served an injunction on a boat at Nantwich earlier in the year.  The owner lived on the boat and had been refused a licence although offering to pay for one. He left it to the last minute to seek legal advice.  He didn’t turn up at court. An order was made to remove/seize his boat.  He was given 14 days notice. This notice was ignored on the grounds that he might ‘abscond’. Two BW ‘enforcers’ accompanied by two Polish ‘mercenaries’ dressed in BW uniforms came to his boat at 7-o-clock one morning when he wasn’t there. A friend of his was there and tried to prevent them from boarding the boat.  He was threatened with police intervention.  The Polish ‘bully-boys’ took his boat (under it’s own power).  He was there by that time and was told his possessions would be ‘dropped off in the Aldi car park in a couple of days’.  The entire ‘assault’ was video’d on a mobile phone.

I have spoken to the person who took the video and he was going to transfer it to a DVD for me but he hasn’t. I spoke to the person concerned on the phone but he was reluctant to talk about it.

I have been ‘challenging’ BW for several years, particularly over the last three and a half years since I had a serious illness. I have had meetings with the local area manager and others and been through the complaints procedure, not with any hope of resolution but to create a file that indicates their refusal to allow any challenge to their unlawful rules and the criminal enforcement thereof.

British Waterways will not listen to any challenge to their ridiculous, unlawful and punitive rules of ‘continuous cruising’.  They say their interpretation of the law, particularly the 1995 Waterways Act has to be challenged and overturned in court.

The Ombudsman would not discuss the legality of the ‘rules’ as she said she was not legally trained. She said I would have to take BW to court.

The Ombudsman Committee Chairman is legally trained.  He is a QC (a leading Human Rights QC) and a Professor of Law.  I wrote to him and the other members of the Ombudsman Committee.  They would not get involved.

The MP Mike Hall said I would have to take them to court.

I do not have the money to take them to court.

I told them they would have to take me to court so that I could apply for legal aid and I would remain where I was moored until they did.

They issued me with the CC1 notice on December 9th 2009 telling me I had 28 days to ‘continue my journey’.

The canal froze on December 19th.

I received a second notice in January for not having ‘continued my journey’ in the preceding 28 days.

I received a notice revoking my licence in February accompanied by a notice saying that as I didn’t have a licence I was trespassing and I must remove my boat from ‘their’ property.

On 9th August I received notice from the court of an Injunction hearing in three weeks time. No indication of what it was about and no paperwork from BW.

I went to the court office and said I did not know what the hearing was about and would not be attending the court. I left a letter to that effect stating that ‘BW habitually misuse and abuse the court process in pursuit of their persecution policy against people who live on boats’.

On 17th August the Enforcement Androids delivered a package to my boat containing the case file as prepared by Shoosmiths of Northampton.  Would I have received it if I had not questioned the Injunction notice?

The first solicitor I went to did nothing (except, of course apply for legal aid funding), didn’t return my phone calls and then went on holiday. I applied to have the hearing re-listed and found another solicitor.

The hearing was re-listed for November 11th. I awaited a conference with the solicitor and barrister having instructed that I wanted a directions hearing for a trial hearing, not an injunction hearing, as I wanted time to discuss the unlawful rules and behaviour of BW.  On meeting the solicitor and barrister it transpired that the file of correspondence etc. had not been transferred from the other solicitor.

Eventually, we went to court on November 11th.   We asked for an adjournment.   The Judge said that as we were all there could we not sort this out without further cost.  He said they say I should have a mooring.  I say there are no ‘suitable’ moorings, should I want one. The solution as he sees it is that they find me a ‘suitable’ mooring payable by housing benefit.  He also said,’I am not in the business of making people homeless, especially in November’.  This took 5 minutes.

A ‘suitable’ mooring would be legal i.e. have residential planning permisssion, would consist of something tangible in return for rent i.e. a piece of land, would have an element of safety and security, would be addressable, eligible for voting, have parking, be payable by housing benefit and have a proper lease agreement.  There certainly aren’t any of those round here (or anywhere else).

If there are no suitable moorings then there is no choice between ‘suitable’ mooring or continuous cruising licence (as I have told them, and the Ombudsman and others on innumerable occasions).   If there is no choice then the contention that continuous cruising is a choice is invalid.    The concept is unlawful, on those grounds, (as well as many others).  BW have always said the onus is on us to find a mooring, although they, essentially, don’t exist. The Judge advised that the onus is on them.  Therefore it is reasonable to be ‘awaiting a ‘suitable’ mooring’ and be free from ‘hassle’ until they provide one.

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7 Responses to “British Waterways’ unlawful abuse”

  1. Geraldine Winkler MonsterID Icon Geraldine Winkler says:

    As Paul “Biddy ” above mentions, I deal with boat cases. I am glad to see you have representation. I would not mind contacting your solicitors or you asking them to contact me as I believe sharing information about BW can strengthen an argument.

    gw@stoneking.co.uk

  2. James MonsterID Icon James says:

    I am struggling to see how BW is acting ‘unlawfully’ here – the only person who ‘thinks they are above the law’ is the boater concerned.

    To recap:

    Boater ignores need for a license and decides to live in breach of that said license (unlawful)

    Boater fails to react to due legal process started by BW (ignoring legal process)

    Boater fails to turn up at court on the first occasion (ignoring legal duties – possibly contempt of court, is unclear)

    Boater told he is violating terms of continuous cruising license for one month, boater then ignores (acting illegally)

    Boater then ignores further notice from BW after further month (unlawful)

    Boater continues to ignore notice of breach of license after another month (continuing to act illegally)

    Boater then happily continues to violate the terms of his license – a legal contract that allows them to live on the canal – for a further six months (acting illegally for a total of nine months)

    Boater surprised to find further court notice arrives

    Boater fails to turn up at further court hearer citing reason that has no legal basis (ignoring power of the court and acting illegally)

    Boater surprised to then recieve enforcement notice (despite breaking law for over nine months and failing to attend two court hearings)

    Boater tries to run a ‘stop violating my human rights, innit’ defence, and is ignored by leading Human Rights lawyer (suggesting he has no legal defence on these grounds)

    Boater asks for an adjournment at next court hearing (effectively admitting they have not prepared a defencible legal case)

    Boater then treated with kid gloves by judge

    Boater then starts complaining about the terms of the license they have entered into and then violated continually and posting allegations of ‘assault’ on a body acting in accordance with due legal process on various websites.

    Come on guys, in what other part of the real world could you get away with this???

    If you were a business choosing to ignore my legal obligations, or an individual seeking to ignore a legal contract you had willingly signed up to, you would be laughed out of court.

    You’re living on the waterways within a structure of law, provided for you by a state body and under clear legal terms – you need to comply with this law and learn to grow up a bit.

  3. Paul Biddy MonsterID Icon Paul Biddy says:

    Stone King Solicitors, Queen’s Square, Bath are representing me along with Doughty Street Chambers. Chris at Community Law Partnerships, Birmingham (the Travellers Advice Team) are also up to speed with the BW Acts and are traveller-gypsy friendly. 1 Pump Court and Garden Court Chambers also have knowledgable barristers who are boater-friendly, but they need to be instructed by a solicitors firm. BW seem intent upon seeking definition of pleasure/houseboat re. what constitutes bona fide navigation in opposition to simply navigating. I reckon winning or losing is not as important as the post-verdict negociation ie. if the PB licence requires an itinerant lifestyle then a HB certificate permits sedentary living (probably without further payment). IF this is correct, other questions flow from these interpretations eg. are PB’s with mooring permits really HBs and if so, should they have to pay for moorings with no water, electric or elsan and (oxford model aside) is it in our best interests to be PBs or HBs so on…

  4. Paul Biddy MonsterID Icon Paul Biddy says:

    Interesting Mr Nantwich. I have paperwork you may be interested in… Contact info@boatingcommunity.org.uk for my e-mail and we can chat more.

    From the sound of it, articles 8 and 1.1 of the Human Rights Act may be engaged here, possibly along with articles 6 and 14 and other local legislation such as the Equalities Bill, Race Relations and Protection from Harassment Act.

    • Mark MonsterID Icon Mark says:

      Wow, well done you, BW seem to think they are above the law.
      I have the same problem of having a cruising Licence (river only) & being told I should move regularly or get a mooring, I have been trying to get a mooring for over 6 years but to no avail. Now they have the auctioning off of moorings, which feels wrong as only the rich can afford to buy these & they are all set for boat lengths/widths with don’t suit my boat, even if I did have the money to pay!
      I will be finding out more regarding the legality of auctioning moorings when there are no other options for cruisers who would lke a mooring. Do you have details of a solicitor who specialises in BW Law & land issues?
      Any advise/opinions would be much appreciated.
      Mark

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