Press Release 2: British Waterways

The following is a press release issued by British Waterways about the judgement in the case British Waterways v Paul Davies

1 April 2011
British Waterways welcomes today’s (31/3/11) Judgment made in Bristol County Court in which His Honour Deputy Judge O’Malley said he favoured BW’s interpretation of Section 17 of the British Waterways Act 1995 (relating to Continuous Cruising). In doing so, the Learned Judge found that the Defendant, Mr Davies (who lives on his boat), had not complied with the requirements of the 1995 Act and that British Waterways was justified in bringing the legal proceedings against him.

Mr Davies has kept his boat on the Kennet & Avon Canal in the Bradford upon Avon area and declined to respond to BW’s repeated warnings that his boat movement was not sufficient to meet the licensing requirements. These state that to qualify for a BW boat licence, a boat must have a home mooring – somewhere where it may lawfully be kept when not being used for cruising. An exception is made for boats which ‘bona fide’ navigate throughout the period of the licence. Because Mr Davies did not move sufficiently or agree to comply with its other terms and conditions, BW refused his application to license his boat. And, because the boat is Mr Davies’ home, BW followed its usual procedure of asking the Court to decide on this case.

There was little or no dispute as to the extent of Mr Davies’ boat movements. Central to the issue considered by the court was the meaning of the term ‘bona fide navigation’.

The Judge noted that Mr Davies’ purpose in keeping the boat on the short stretch of canal between Bath and Bradford upon Avon was so that his home was within convenient distance of his place of work and his social circle, and that his purpose in moving the boat was to attempt to escape the requirement to have a permanent mooring. The Judge said: “What is clear to me is that the defendant who is clearly living on the boat cannot successfully claim that he is using it ‘bona fide for navigation’ by moving it every so often up and down a short stretch of canal.”

This is the first time the legal requirements for continuous cruising have been tested before the Courts and the Judgment included helpful comments which has enabled BW to refine its Mooring Guidance.
The Judge’s decision is that Mr Davies now has three months (30 June 2011) to remove his boat from British Waterways’ canals and rivers. The Judge concluded by saying: “BW behaved in an exemplary fashion throughout.”

Sally Ash, Head of Boating at British Waterways, comments: “Today’s decision is a great help in bringing greater clarity to a subject which has caused much debate and difficulty within the waterways community. We very much welcome continuous cruising on our canals and rivers and are, as a result of the Learned Judge’s findings, refining our Mooring Guidance. The refined Guidance which is based on professional legal advice, including from Leading Counsel, will be published on our website and we will shortly be inviting representatives of national boating user groups to discuss these.”


For further information and to request interviews, please contact:
Jonathan Ludford, 020 7985 7275 or 07747 897783

Notes to editors:
The decision of the Learned Judge in the case of British Waterways v Davies will be binding on lower courts (and District Judges) and persuasive on Circuit Judges throughout England and Wales.
The Judgment along with the revised mooring guidance will be published at: in due course.

Please note that the link given by BW does not work at present (03 April)

The press release is published here;

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5 Responses to “Press Release 2: British Waterways”

  1. Geraldine Winkler MonsterID Icon Geraldine Winkler says:

    I am the lawyer who represented Paul Davies. Martin Westgate QC was his barrister. Sadly Paul lost his case, but it is not the victory BW hailed it to be.

    It is important to remember that the decision was “moving the boat every so often up and down a short stretch” is not bona fide navigating. The decision address other of issues raised, and it did not say what bfn is. It explicitely did not endorse the guidelines either. (Following the case, the guidelines are being redrafted and are subject of consultation. )

    This is not a criticism of the Judge, as the matter before the court was this : was Paul Davies engaged in bona fide navigating? The decision was very much case specific.

    The decision is only persuasive on cases heard at the same level. It is theoretically binding on a lower court, so if for example the case were heard by a district judge, or potentially in a magistrate’s court, but the likely scenario is the case would be heard by a judge of similar seniority or above, particularly as the proceedings are for injunctive relief.

    For both these reasons, each case will have to be decided on its own merits.

    These cases concern people’s homes, as we know, and a lifestyle and community, which is also a valued part of the landscape. It has justly attracted a lot of sympathetic media attention.

    I thank Paul and his questing mind that got me involved, and given me the door to this world, and therefore expertise on this area of law. My hope is that the outcome, although no solution for him, means there will be further consultation and discussion on how to reconcile a valued life style, and the community members’ needs to work, go to school, be part of a stable community, with BW’s financial considerations (££).

  2. paul biddy MonsterID Icon paul biddy says:

    A section 8 is an unjust violence against self and home where other, less draconian, remedies are available to the Board

  3. Suzanne Gaia MonsterID Icon Suzanne Gaia says:

    How can you comply with these so called rules when they have no definition? Why are people constantly trying to make life difficult for others?

  4. Suzanne Gaia MonsterID Icon Suzanne Gaia says:

    Why do we have this constant battle? Why are people sitting in their offices deliberately trying to make life awkward for others? Please let people just live their lives.

  5. Paul Biddy MonsterID Icon Paul Biddy says:

    The ruling does not clearly state what bona fide navigation is – it simply says what bona fide isn’t. At no time have BW never properly defined bona fide, yet have always told boaters to bfn. The logic used to conclude the judgment stated a partial preference for bw’s construction of section 17 although the judgment itself did not fully endorse the concept of journey. Questions remain. No precedent is set and while Biddy remains very vulnerable, claims engaging section 8 should always be considered and defended on a case by case basis.