We have received this message from a boater in the north west about BW’s unlawful enforcement practices:
British Waterways served an injunction on a boat at Nantwich earlier in the year. The owner lived on the boat and had been refused a licence although offering to pay for one. He left it to the last minute to seek legal advice. He didn’t turn up at court. An order was made to remove/seize his boat. He was given 14 days notice. This notice was ignored on the grounds that he might ‘abscond’. Two BW ‘enforcers’ accompanied by two Polish ‘mercenaries’ dressed in BW uniforms came to his boat at 7-o-clock one morning when he wasn’t there. A friend of his was there and tried to prevent them from boarding the boat. He was threatened with police intervention. The Polish ‘bully-boys’ took his boat (under it’s own power). He was there by that time and was told his possessions would be ‘dropped off in the Aldi car park in a couple of days’. The entire ‘assault’ was video’d on a mobile phone.
I have spoken to the person who took the video and he was going to transfer it to a DVD for me but he hasn’t. I spoke to the person concerned on the phone but he was reluctant to talk about it.
I have been ‘challenging’ BW for several years, particularly over the last three and a half years since I had a serious illness. I have had meetings with the local area manager and others and been through the complaints procedure, not with any hope of resolution but to create a file that indicates their refusal to allow any challenge to their unlawful rules and the criminal enforcement thereof.
British Waterways will not listen to any challenge to their ridiculous, unlawful and punitive rules of ‘continuous cruising’. They say their interpretation of the law, particularly the 1995 Waterways Act has to be challenged and overturned in court.
The Ombudsman would not discuss the legality of the ‘rules’ as she said she was not legally trained. She said I would have to take BW to court.
The Ombudsman Committee Chairman is legally trained. He is a QC (a leading Human Rights QC) and a Professor of Law. I wrote to him and the other members of the Ombudsman Committee. They would not get involved.
The MP Mike Hall said I would have to take them to court.
I do not have the money to take them to court.
I told them they would have to take me to court so that I could apply for legal aid and I would remain where I was moored until they did.
They issued me with the CC1 notice on December 9th 2009 telling me I had 28 days to ‘continue my journey’.
The canal froze on December 19th.
I received a second notice in January for not having ‘continued my journey’ in the preceding 28 days.
I received a notice revoking my licence in February accompanied by a notice saying that as I didn’t have a licence I was trespassing and I must remove my boat from ‘their’ property.
On 9th August I received notice from the court of an Injunction hearing in three weeks time. No indication of what it was about and no paperwork from BW.
I went to the court office and said I did not know what the hearing was about and would not be attending the court. I left a letter to that effect stating that ‘BW habitually misuse and abuse the court process in pursuit of their persecution policy against people who live on boats’.
On 17th August the Enforcement Androids delivered a package to my boat containing the case file as prepared by Shoosmiths of Northampton. Would I have received it if I had not questioned the Injunction notice?
The first solicitor I went to did nothing (except, of course apply for legal aid funding), didn’t return my phone calls and then went on holiday. I applied to have the hearing re-listed and found another solicitor.
The hearing was re-listed for November 11th. I awaited a conference with the solicitor and barrister having instructed that I wanted a directions hearing for a trial hearing, not an injunction hearing, as I wanted time to discuss the unlawful rules and behaviour of BW. On meeting the solicitor and barrister it transpired that the file of correspondence etc. had not been transferred from the other solicitor.
Eventually, we went to court on November 11th. We asked for an adjournment. The Judge said that as we were all there could we not sort this out without further cost. He said they say I should have a mooring. I say there are no ‘suitable’ moorings, should I want one. The solution as he sees it is that they find me a ‘suitable’ mooring payable by housing benefit. He also said,’I am not in the business of making people homeless, especially in November’. This took 5 minutes.
A ‘suitable’ mooring would be legal i.e. have residential planning permisssion, would consist of something tangible in return for rent i.e. a piece of land, would have an element of safety and security, would be addressable, eligible for voting, have parking, be payable by housing benefit and have a proper lease agreement. There certainly aren’t any of those round here (or anywhere else).
If there are no suitable moorings then there is no choice between ‘suitable’ mooring or continuous cruising licence (as I have told them, and the Ombudsman and others on innumerable occasions). If there is no choice then the contention that continuous cruising is a choice is invalid. The concept is unlawful, on those grounds, (as well as many others). BW have always said the onus is on us to find a mooring, although they, essentially, don’t exist. The Judge advised that the onus is on them. Therefore it is reasonable to be ‘awaiting a ‘suitable’ mooring’ and be free from ‘hassle’ until they provide one.