The Judgement in ‘That Case’

Well….can anyone else hear the delicate sound of the brown sticky stuff hitting the whirry whirry thing. Suddenly our game appears to have changed.

Paul says “The first reading strikes panic in the reader, while later consideration and logical reasoning reveals a judgement that puts BW back at square one prior to trial. however I’m not convinced that readers  will be able to arrive at the same conclusion (that I am more vulnerable whereas others remain as safe/vulnerable at they always have been.)”

I don’t hold with that point of view, the ball game has changed—there will be much discussion at BW towers about the implications of this judgement and it would be most ostrich like if we, the boaters concerned, did not have our own discussion.

A few things seem apparent;

That  living in a small area without a mooring as a choice of home is not within Section 17 iii(c). That intention, that cornerstone of British Law, is the scale on which entitlement to a license is measured. Did you buy your boat to navigate the waterways? Did you buy your boat as home near to Bath, Bradford-on-Avon or wherever and  simply navigate as a way of staying within the law? Given that the price of living in a house is seen as one of the significant factors in buying a boat, this judgement appears to say that BW are entitled not to give a license to people for this latter purpose.

As they have without question issued licences to many wide beam and narrow boats in recent years intended, built and used for exactly that purpose it appears the BW themselves may not acting within the law. Will we see new licenses not just given as a matter of course but only on examination and statements of intent?

If, and this is a big if, this judgement is appealed, and it goes to a Court of Record—any of the higher courts—then it will set precedent and, as such, become a quick and easy way of processing Section 8 notices through the courts. BW seem to accept that they still have to give a boater a chance to defend themselves in court before a Section 8 can be enforced. At present they could not rely on this judgement although it will strongly inform any future judgement.

So I do not welcome that this dispute went to court at all when it could have easily been resolved by mediation, and I hope there is no appeal that would entrench this judgement even further.

I call on Paul to call a halt now to his fight against BW. There is much hope that he can arrive at a compromise, be given a mooring to continue his chosen lifestyle, this seems implicit in the yet to be decided matter of ‘injunctive relief’. See paragraph 16 of the judgement.

That’s the downside. Like Paul says it could easily strike panic. But there are other considerations. Firstly BW has said it is now off to reconsider the “Mooring Guidance to Continuous Cruisers” and it seems that there is no consideration of distance, lock miles or ‘significant part of the system’, instead the rules must be based on intention and the nomadic life of boaters will have to be enshrined in this. The judgement simply says that being based in, for instance, Bath is unacceptable but it does not give any opinion about how far the travel of a nomad must be.

The second is that there are many boaters currently drifting about the Bath Bradford pound who would gladly take a mooring if it was available and affordable. This, combined with the newly raised awareness of the Councils of their obligations to travellers, including boaters, means that effort must be made to accommodate. I would contend that this is an issue of price as much as availability. There is little point in starting a bidding war so that only the wealthiest boaters can afford to stay, there must be a sense of equity in allocation. I know boaters who would have moorings now if BW, when they ran the waiting list, had not behaved in a thoroughly corrupt way over allocation. If this happens again then nothing will change.

It will be apparent that with an estimated 150-200 boats affected by this decision between Bath and Devizes, BW simply do not have the money for a clearance. They cannot afford to take everyone to court. They will find it necessary to negotiate a solution or many solutions. They may have got the judgement they want in this case but this case has unique factors that, in my opinion, made it a lot easier than many will be. Especially when any future cases will have this well trodden ground to follow with some of the more obvious pratfalls marked out. So in that sense we can say ‘thank you’ to Paul, even if in a spirit of irony, because now we know exactly what we are dealing with.

Interesting times ahead.

Whirr whirr glitch glitch.

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One Response to “The Judgement in ‘That Case’”

  1. paul biddy MonsterID Icon paul biddy says:

    The qualified opinion of 5 lawyers (who all strongly support a defence) state that I am indeed more vulnerable, that the judgment sets no precedent and may not be relied upon by bw in the futre – only referred to. Intention will be such a difficult thing to prove in future litigations brought against boaters by bw and the ‘short stretch’ between bath and bradford on avon cannot be relied upon in isolation but concurrently with other logic. Each case is individual and no appeal is currently planned. Uncomfortable with the managerial processes of bw, I chose to defend against homelessness and strongly advise the same for others. Criticism against a defence, by those unqualified to make such criticism, where all else has failed is unhelpful… For me, this is not a fight, but a defence where all other forms of negotiation through emails, managerial meetings and protest over over a period of 6 years have been rejected by bw. Pots cannot call a kettle black (or brown or pink or any other colour of the rainbow).