British Waterways act illegally

or is the headline “Dog bites Man” ? We received this email from a boater on the Grand Union;

already boaters on the Grand Union canal are being served patrol orders (for first offenses in at least one case) along with a copy of the press release from BW about the Paul Davies case and a letter warning that this case has set a legal precedent regarding live-aboard boaters, their observance (or not)of the cruising guidance and the options that are now open to BW in terms of punitive action in light of this case. This is aggressive and overtly threatening action. Regardless of the ins and outs of the initial issue (the continuous cruising guidance and legal powers (and questionable competency) of BW to enforce it), Paul Davies’ case cannot be used by BW to threaten people across the canal network with homelessness.

The press release is currently the subject of complaint to BW. The complainant has taken legal advice from two experts including a senior barrister who opines that the press release is wrong both factually and in law as County Court judgements do not set precedent.

The statement’s footnote to editors, reproduced in several publications, reads; ‘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 true legal position is that ‘The County Court is bound by all decisions of the higher courts, but its own decisions never create precedents’.

But British Waterways chooses to ignore such irrelevant details as facts and law in order to push through its point of view.

We urge each and every boater who has received one of these notices to complain to the Waterways Ombudsman. As is pointed out in Panda’s comment below this will have to follow 2 levels of complaint to BW, a time consuming and soul-sucking experience but it needs to be done.

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2 Responses to “British Waterways act illegally”

  1. Panda MonsterID Icon Panda says:

    A complaint cannot be made direct to the Waterways Ombudsman. Complaints have to pass through the BW complaints procedure first before the Ombudsman has the power to consider them. There are two stages of the BW complaints process. BW will inevitably reject the complaint at both stages and then the complaint can be referred to the Ombudsman. If you make a complaint directly to the Ombudsman she will tell you she can’t consider it. See the article on this web site about using the BW complaints process. Anyone who has been subjected to unlawful enforcement should also complain to their MP – if you are not registered to vote, contact the MP for the area you are moored in and tell them you have no fixed address.

    If any boater has further enforcement action taken against them as a result of those letters then please let us know through the web site as we may be able to provide more advice.

    The article about the BW complaints process is here:

  2. paul biddy MonsterID Icon paul biddy says:

    Dear Hilary, (Waterways Ombudswoman),

    I wish to raise concerns with you that BW Patrol Officers are sending threatening letters to boaters on the Grand Union that contain inaccurate information. See the attached link here…

    While the actions of BW in these matters may or may not be lawful, the wording of the letters are certainly misleading and it is very disconcerting that they mention my name and therefore extend beyond standard managerial practice.

    I hope you appreciate, Hilary, that current anxieties between myself and BW do seem to rule out the formal complaint procedure, and BW demand that I only make contact through a solicitor. My certificate from the LSC is now discharged.

    In any event, the ruling (not yet fully released by Bristol County Court) is, like all rulings, vey appealable, although no appeal is currently planned.