On 23rd May, BW published a press release stating that the High Court had issued a judgement upholding the lawfulness of its Guidance for Boaters Without a Home Mooring. This is highly misleading; liveaboard boater Nick Brown is continuing his Judicial Review of BW’s Guidance.
Mr Brown said “BW claimed that it won. What happened here was that permission was refused at a papers hearing, the first of many steps in judicial review proceedings. Permission is rarely granted at this stage: this is a filter for casual cases. There is nothing casual about boat dwellers losing their homes”.
“BW has prematurely declared that it has won this issue” he added. “I will pursue this national interest dispute as far as is necessary to see that boat dwellers’ rights, as cast by Parliament and the European Convention on Human Rights, are upheld. BW also claimed that I have been ordered to pay costs of £15,000. In fact the Court observed that this was an excessive amount and has held back on making a costs order, stating that this is for a later Court to consider”.
The Guidance purports to clarify the boat movement that is required of boaters without home moorings. Mr Brown contends that their navigation obligations are laid out not only in s.17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995 but are also clarified by the minutes of the Select Committee which drafted the Act.
Mr Brown believes that the Guidance does not reflect the meaning intended by Parliament of s.17(3)(c)(ii) of the 1995 Act. The Guidance goes much further than s.17(3)(c)(ii) requires, and therefore BW does not have the legal power to enforce the Guidance. Further, Mr Brown is concerned that boat dwellers who do comply with the 14-day rule remain at risk of losing their homes. Itinerant boat dwellers are one of the groups of people with the least protection against homelessness.
Mr Brown also observed that in another recent High Court case a boat dweller won on many points and yet BW claimed it won on all counts. The judgement in Moore v British Waterways Board  EWHC 182 (Ch) confirmed that BW’s policies violated boat dwellers’ rights under Article 8 of the European Convention, interfered with their homes and denied them access to due process. It also clarified that BW is out of control. The case sets a precedent.
Mr Brown is the legal officer of the National Bargee Travellers Association, a volunteer organisation formed in 2009 that campaigns and provides advice for itinerant boat dwellers on Britain’s inland and coastal waterways. See www.bargee-traveller.org.uk