The following is a press release issued by the National Bargee Travellers Association www.bargee-traveller.org.uk edited and approved by Paul Davies
British Waterways v Davies: BW must revise continuous cruising guidance but liveaboard boaters’ homes at risk
The judgement in British Waterways v Paul Davies handed down on 31st March 2011 in Bristol County Court could have serious consequences for all continuously cruising live-aboard boaters. However, the outcome also means that British Waterways (BW) is to redraft the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers. In particular BW is likely to drop the requirement to make a progressive journey and to travel around a significant part of the canal network.
The judgement was sealed in the County Court and therefore only refers to Mr Davies. It does not create a formal legal precedent, but it is clear that BW will try to rely on it in future cases.
The judgement ruled that Mr Davies, who works, socialises and navigates in the 10 mile stretch between Bath and Bradford on Avon, was not using his boat bona fidefor navigation. This aspect of the judgement did not consider the right to respect for his home, family and private life conferred by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. As a consequence of this judgement, many live-aboard boaters may be rendered homeless by BW.
The judgement on the meaning of “bona fide for navigation” appears to suggest that a live-aboard boater without a home mooring must genuinely intend to navigate the canal system and not move simply to comply with the law.
Nick Brown, the Legal Officer of the National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA), said “This really does pave the way for social cleansing. The judgement defined ‘bona fide for navigation’ as the intention to navigate in good faith. According to this logic, if you drove at 30 miles per hour in a 30 MPH zone you would be prosecuted for speeding if you were simply observing the speed limit in order to comply with the law, rather than because you believed that 30 MPH was the appropriate speed to drive at. This would make BW the ‘Thought Police’ “.
On the positive side, any live-aboards subjected to Section 8 action by BW must be given the opportunity to defend themselves in court.
What BW is glossing over is that although the court found that Mr Davies was not using his boat bona fide for navigation, the judgement envisaged a use of the boat that falls short of the Mooring Guidance for Continuous Cruisers but would still comply with the legislation. In consequence, BW has now accepted that it does not have the power to enforce the continuous cruising guidelines in their present form.
The NBTA is taking legal advice.