Three boaters spoke to Richard Parry, CRT’s Chief Executive, when he visited Crofton last Wednesday. One of the most significant things that they learnt was that Mr Parry will personally scrutinise every decision to take boaters to court from January. This level of scrutiny by a Chief Executive of any organisation is an indication that there are serious failings by the department or employee in question. One of the failings may be that CRT’s Legal Department is spending too much on court cases against boaters. Legal Director Nigel Johnson’s “retirement” has suddenly been brought forward by one year and he will leave this month.
A solicitor who has represented a number of liveaboard boaters in recent section 8 cases believes that CRT’s legal department has been taking as many cases against boaters to court as possible in the hope of getting some legal precedents in its favour. This is despite the fact that most cases against boaters do not go higher than the County Court which does not create legal precedents. However this has not stopped Sally Ash who in 2011 made the misleading claim that the judgement against Paul Davies in Bristol County Court was “binding on lower courts (and District Judges) and persuasive on Circuit Judges”.
It is a welcome move for Mr Parry to carry out personal scrutiny of every decision to take a boater to court. Most cases against boaters are for money owed and such cases can frequently be resolved without going to court. However, what really needs to be scrutinised is CRT’s decisions to serve Section 8 notices. Far too many boaters without home moorings have had their licences terminated when they have been complying with Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995 by travelling to a different place every 14 days, and far too many have been served with Section 8’s in circumstances where it has been reasonbale for them to stay in one place longer than 14 days or not travel very far because of illness, disability, engine breakdown or other emergencies.
This kind of scrutiny by the Chief Executive is unknown in the history of CRT/BW. Indeed there has been an absence of effective scrutiny in BW. In 2007, Sally Ash received a Final Written Warning in the disciplinary process as a result of inadequate monitoring and control of Education Manager John Butterly’s spending on a BW procurement visa card. Mr Butterly, who was convicted in Mold Crown Court and jailed for 14 months in 2007, spent an estimated £70,000 of BW’s money on home improvements and luxury goods. Sally Ash was his line manager in the Wild Over Waterways partnership which she established and had overall responsibility for. The trial was reported in Towpath Talk on 13th September 2007; the Daily Post and on the BBC News web site.