In this article, and others to follow, are extracts from my letters to the Ombudsman in the Complaints Procedure. There were previous letters to the area manager and several meetings which resulted in recourse to the Complaints Procedure as, after initial useful discussion, I was threatened and harassed because I was challenging BW's management of the waterways. This, I believe, after intervention from 'above'.
They don't listen to people who have complaints. They only listen to user groups who, from my observations, limit their complaints to agreed subjects and have proven to be ineffectual and 'in the way' of the proper arguments about the behaviour, unlawful and criminal, of British Waterways. They don't 'like', or support, people like me with serious complaints and evidence of serious abuse. The people they 'represent' are from opposing sides of the divisive arguments orchestrated by BW so how can they be effective in resolving the abuse of one 'group' by another when, supposedly, 'representing' both.
This extract is from the first letter in the Complaints Procedure sent to the Customer Services manager, Jonathan Bryant in January 2009. More than 6 years ago and the same arguments continue to this day with endless, mind sapping, and confused, 'debate' on a certain 'forum', and in some court cases, with very few people having a clue what they are talking about so that, with regard to court cases, the hapless Judge doesn't have a hope of making sense of it and arriving at a reasonable, lawful and just decision - even without the dubious practices of CRT and their representatives and, probably, some 'outside' interference that is deemed to be 'not in the public interest (as in my case).
None of this should have been necessary. the rules of 'continuous cruising' should never have been devised or implemented.
Sally Ash should never have been loosed upon the world of the waterways. Thousands of lives have been adversely interfered with and millions of pounds have been wasted. It is a disgrace and the people ultimately responsible, BW and CRT, are still destroying people's lives and destroying the waterways.
And still many people support them because they believe it serves their agenda to have lots of people driven off the waterways. They are ignorant, they are selfish, and they hate people who live on boats. They are summer weekend picnickers who want to moor in large groups with no contact with anyone else - boat clubs. And, also, marina based leisure boaters who want to sit outside a pub on a weekend or in their 'favourite place'. If anyone else is there they, irrationally, assume they are people who live on boats and are moored there permanently when they may have only just arrived.
Such selfish stupidity is the basis of the implementation of, so called, 'continuous cruising' because, unfortunately, Sally Ash based the enforcement policy on what they wanted. She consulted boat clubs and canal societies, as well as hire boat companies, and created a policy of harassment against the people they didn't like. The dreaded 'liveaboard'.
Here is the first part of the complaint about the rules of 'continuous cruising'. This complaint letter was 13 pages long and there were further letters so I am selecting relevant extracts.
If you want to know what was going on with regard to BW's treatment of other people, as well as me, that led to my complaint and subsequent legal action against me you will find it interesting. In situations such as this, blatant abuses by a public authority and then a public body and charity which is, apparently, sanctioned by the 'state and its agents, probably only about 1% of people can be bothered to examine the facts - let alone present the facts having, at considerable cost, obtained the evidence. That is one of many reasons why these abusers get away with it.
13 / 01 / 2009
c.c. Mike Hall MP
Huw Davies MP
Dear Mr Bryant,
This letter constitutes my complaint at Level 2 of the Complaints Procedure. Mrs. Sharman passed over Level 1 as we have spoken before and I believe she thinks, as I do, that we are unlikely to come to an agreement.
The complaint relates to :- (1) the concept and rules of continuous cruising.
(2) the enforcement of those rules.
(3) the discrimination against a 'group' of people created by British Waterways specifically for that purpose. Namely 'Continuous Cruisers'.
(4) the unlawful abuse that the above constitutes.
(1) The concept and rules of continuous cruising.
The current rules for continuous cruising are based on the 'Mooring Guidance For Continuous Cruisers 2004' I will go through this step by step as I have yet to meet anyone who actually understands these rules, including staff of British Waterways, but they are used, somewhat arbitrarily, as the basis of the intimidation and harassment that goes under the heading of 'enforcement'.
'If a boat is licensed on a 'continuous cruising' basis it must move on a regular basis. This guidance* seeks to explain in day to day terms the nature of the compulsory movement that must take place.'
Footnote * This 'guidance' does not have the force of law but seeks to interpret the law as set out in s.17 British Waterways Act 1995. The language of the Act is generic and, as with all statutes, requires interpretation. The guidance is based on professional legal advice and is believed to reflect the interpretation a court of law would apply'
So. You've had the 'romantic notion' of living on a boat and exploring the waterways for some years, you've read the occasional article in various newspapers and magazines, you've seen the television programmes, such as Waterworld, produced in collaboration with British Waterways, and you find yourself in a position to be able to do it. You re-organise your life completely and, after considerable time, planning and expense, you have a boat. You require a licence, you apply for a licence, you assume, quite reasonably, that it will be a 'boat licence'. It isn't. The only licence available, if you don't have a mooring, which you don't as you have no intention of just sitting in one place on a mooring, which would probably mean a marina 'mooring', is, since sometime after 1995, a 'continuous cruising' licence. There is no choice. That is the only licence available. You have that licence or you have no licence. So you pay for your licence and are issued with the 'Mooring Guidance For Continuous Cruisers 2004' a nd are confronted with the opening sentences as above.
This is the first time you have come across the requirement of 'compulsory movement'. They didn't mention that in 'Waterworld' or the magazine articles. They were talking about the wonderful 'freedom' of the waterways, the 'gaily painted narrowboats' ( they always mention that ) , the peace and tranquillity, the escape from the pressures and impositions of the 'modern world', and, probably, the escape from the interference and meddling of petty bureaucracy. But, no, there is 'guidance to explain the nature of the compulsory movement that must take place'. If you'd read this before you bought a boat, I think that that sentence alone would be enough to put you off completely. And that is just the first sentence.
There is a footnote to the word 'guidance'.
'This guidance does not have the force of law' You thought it was compulsory. You're confused now and you're only on the second sentence.
It 'seeks to interpret the law as set out in s.17 British Waterways Act 1995'. 'Seeks' to interpret. 'Seek' , according to the dictionary, would, in this context, mean 'endeavours or tries'. So, it 'endeavours or tries' to interpret the aforementioned law. So, it's not 'law' it's an 'attempt' at 'interpreting' or 'making sense of' an actual law. A 'law' which, presumably, is ambiguous or difficult to understand.
'This guidance is 'based on' professional legal advice. So, it's not necessarily 'legal' it's 'based on' legal advice. Presumably from the Legal Department of British Waterways so, not exactly, objective and impartial legal advice.
'And is believed to reflect the interpretation a court of law would apply'. That's simple enough. There is only one possible interpretation and everyone, including a court of law is bound to agree. Would that everything else was that simple. So, this 'attempt' at interpreting this, apparently ambiguous, law shall, hereafter, be regarded as definitive and used as the basis for the, aforementioned, harassment and intimidation that constitutes 'enforcement'.
'There are three legal requirements:-
The boat must genuinely be used for navigation throughout the period of the licence.
Unless a shorter time is specified by notice the boat must not stay in the same place for more than 14 days ( or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances).
It is the responsibility of the boater to satisfy BW that the above requirements are met '.
' NAVIGATION '
''The law requires that the boat 'will be bona fide used for navigation throughout the period of the licence'. Navigation in this context means travelling on water i.e. making a journey. ( Footnote. The relevant meaning of the noun 'navigation' given in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary is 'the action or practice of travelling on water', and the relevant meaning of the verb 'travel' is given as 'make a journey, esp. of some length.) A ' cruise 'is a journey or series of journeys' making for no particular place or calling at a series of places'.''
Navigation can, reasonably, be said to mean 'travelling on water', to extend this to imply it means 'making a journey' is to make an assumption. What the Oxford Dictionary actually defines navigation as is 'sail a ship or sail in a ship; sail or steam in or through a sea or river'. There is no mention of a 'journey' . Navigation is an 'act' there is no implied 'purpose' it is the 'act' of sailing in a ship ( or boat ) which is, presumably, on water. That requires that it be a boat with a means of propulsion as opposed to a static houseboat e.g. it has an engine and it can, and does 'move about a bit'. I would suggest that the intended meaning and the correct interpretation is that the 'boat' in question is not a 'houseboat' and does not, necessarily, remain permanently moored in one place but is capable of movement, i.e. navigation.
We then have:- ''the relevant meaning of the verb 'travel' is given as 'make a journey, esp. of some length' . The first definition given in the Oxford Dictionary, and one which doesn't seek to qualify the verb, is 'go from one place to another'. So, we have, 'sailing in a boat', 'travelling on water' and 'going from one place to another'. That would appear, to me, to represent a 'commonsense' interpretation of the relevant requirement and to relate to 'what people actually do' and what it was their intention to do. Commonsense and relevance, as well as considerations as to 'common practice', must surely be taken into account when interpreting 'fairly' an ambiguous law.
Then, from out of nowhere, we have the word 'cruise'. ''A 'cruise' is a journey or series of journeys 'making for no particular place or calling at a series of places'.'' The word 'cruise' is not mentioned once in the 1995 Waterways Act. We have gone from 'interpretation' to 'fabrication', (and are on the threshold of 'obfuscation').
Next we have:- '' Therefore, subject to stops of permitted duration, those using a boat licensed for continuous cruising must genuinely be engaged on a journey or series of journeys ''. Here we have a 'conclusion arrived at from the above series of misinterpretations that is to be used as the basis of the 'rules' of 'continuous cruising'. 'Navigation' has become 'a journey or series of journeys' or 'a cruise'.
'' Such journey or cruise must take place throughout the period of the licence and, therefore, requires progression around the network or significant part of it.''
So, he who has bought his boat and is now wondering, as many have before, if he has made a dreadful mistake, is confronted with the prospect, not of enjoying a leisurely life of exploring the canals at his leisure, which involves moving and stopping as he wishes and as he believed his licence allowed, but of embarking upon a journey around the canal network which is not in accordance with his whims and wishes but is determined by some notion of 'progression around the network' and that is a 'journey without end'.
'' Thus short trips within the same area, ' bridge hopping ' and shuttling backwards and forwards along a smaller part of the network does NOT meet the legal requirement for continuous cruising. The law requires a genuine progressive journey ( a cruise) around the network or significant part of it.''
So, the interpretation of the law that constitutes 'continuous cruising' does not allow boats to move backwards and forwards which means that when you do need to go backwards and forwards, as you inevitably will for various reasons if you live on a boat, you are in breach of the rules. It doesn't allow short trips within the same area. That too is in breach of the rules.
Normal, unavoidable, reasonable, necessary behaviour and practice related to 'navigation' on a boat is not allowed.
So, what all this is about, this distortion of a law and distortion of logic and commonsense, is - making life as difficult as possible for people who live on boats and neither need nor want a mooring or are unable to find a suitable mooring because there are very few of them. It is a means of classifying such people as belonging to a distinct group for the purpose of discriminatory treatment. Even at this point in the 'guidance' for 'continuous cruisers' there is clear evidence of an intent to 'discourage' rather than 'encourage' the activity of living on a boat.
At the same time, in recent years, there has been a 'PR campaign' to promote the canals and bring on more boats. People have been seriously misled, have come on to the canals, have been harassed and intimidated by the targeted enforcement of these rules, have become disillusioned, distressed and depressed and have subsequently left the canals if they are able to or are still here playing 'hide and seek' with the enforcement officers. This harassment, which involves the issuing of 'Patrol Notices' that state that you must 'continue your journey' would appear to indicate that the excessive and unnecessary movement of boats is regarded by British Waterways as a 'good thing'. So good that an army of people must be employed to chase and chivvy the idle boater lest he fall victim to sloth and torpor. He must hurtle around the system like a man possessed until either he or his licence expires. He must 'continually cruise' on his one way trip to nowhere because British Waterways insist upon it.
British Waterways have recently announced their intention of increasing the 'continuous cruising licence' by (initially) £150 per annum because of the '' EXCESSIVE USE OF THE SYSTEM BY ' CONTINUOUS CRUISING ' AND THE CONSEQUENT EXCESSIVE WEAR AND TEAR ''. And. Wait for it. '' THIS EXTRA MONEY WILL BE USED TO INCREASE THE ENFORCEMENT OF THE RULES OF ' CONTINUOUS CRUISING '.''
I believe there is a 'lunatic' loose in British Waterways and I think it's time you did something about 'her'.
As mentioned above the real reason for these absurd rules is to make life difficult for people who choose to live on a boat and neither need nor want a mooring. The intention is to force them all into paying 'rent' for a mooring. There are far more boats than moorings. If you want a mooring in exchange for 'rent' it is reasonable to expect, in return, such facilities and services that constitute 'value' for the said 'rent' just as you would in renting a house or other premises. You would expect some kind of 'security' and 'safety', a degree of 'privacy' ,secure car parking and probably water, electricity and storage space. If such moorings were available most of the people who are on the canals today would want them providing that they were reasonably priced ( and obtainable by reasonable means other than a 'dutch auction'. Such moorings are not widely available. What is available is 'marina mooring'. British Waterways are investing heavily in marinas and that's where they want us all to go.
Marinas are, essentially, car parks for boats and are only suitable for boats which are unoccupied. Many, probably most, marinas do not allow people to live on boats, some do but you have to pretend that you don't, some local councils approve it, some don't. It is a 'grey area'. There is, generally, no provision for 'residential boats' as distinct from unoccupied boats. Boats are crammed together along jetties which are, generally, no more than 18 inches wide. If there was a fire on a boat it would be impossible to move the boat away to a 'safe place' and impossible to move other boats away from it. The majority of boats have gas bottles on board so the official advice is to get everyone away from the area until the fire has died down. Even the Fire Service do not go near a fire where there are gas bottles involved. The fire will probably spread through several boats, there will be explosions, there may be casualties. There have been several fires in marinas of which I don't know the details but I know that with regard to local instances where the Fire Service has been involved they regard some marinas as 'deathtraps'. A marina does not have to have a Fire Certificate as boats are regarded as individual dwellings. All the Fire Service can do is issue boats with smoke alarms which they have done in this area to boats both in and out of marinas. Advice from the Fire Service would be that the marina environment is 'unsafe' but they do not have the authority to tell people not to live there. It is up to them.
I choose not to live in a marina. It is neither reasonable nor lawful for British Waterways to attempt by harassment and intimidation to force me to take a mooring in a marina which exists in a 'grey area', i.e. not necessarily lawful, and is 'unsafe' with regard to fire risk and also, therefore, with regard to Health and Safety. Ignorance of the requirements of the Health and Safety Act of 1974 is not a defence to the charge of Corporate Manslaughter. You are no longer ignorant as I have now informed you of your 'Duty of Care'.
But, we have not yet finished with the 'rules' of 'continuous cruising' . There is, unfortunately, more which I will try to deal with briefly lest I lose my mind or the will to live.
'' The law requires that stops during such a journey should not be 'in any one place for more than 14 days'.''
The law says nothing about a 'journey' as mentioned above and refers to 'any one place for more than 14 days or such period as is reasonable in the circumstances'. In other words there is no 'hard and fast' ruling relating to the length of a stay in one place but it is decided by a consensus or agreement between the relevant parties as to what is considered 'reasonable in the circumstances'. This is referred to further on in the 'Guidance' and some examples are given of what might be considered 'reasonable in the circumstances'. Two of the reasons cited are 'illness' and 'family emergency' and I have considerable evidence of British Waterways, through it's local office, behaving 'unreasonably in the circumstances' which I will enlarge upon under the heading of 'Enforcement Policy and Methods' . There is an onus on the relevant authority, British Waterways, to behave 'reasonably in the circumstances' and as the relevant authority is a public body it has a further duty to 'exercise it's power reasonably in all circumstances'. If it chooses not to do so or can reasonably be said not to be doing so then it is breaking the law.
We then have:-
'' 'Place' in this context means a neighbourhood or locality, NOT simply a particular mooring site or position.''
This is followed by a definition of 'place' that relates to previous misinterpretations of the words 'navigation' and 'travel' and is deemed to be - 'an area inhabited or frequented by people, as a city, town, a village etc.'.
Presumably, then, all places that lie between places that are inhabited or frequented by people can be regarded as 'non-places' and from the point of view of the 'law' do not exist and can, therefore, be occupied indefinitely other than with regard to the particular laws that relate to the said 'non-places' assuming there are such laws. This definition of 'place' does, inadvertently, come close to a sensible interpretation of the Waterways Act and a sensible approach to the situation that actually exists on the canals whereby there are people on boats, on the canal, who inevitably need to moor their boats for varying lengths of time, in various places, for various reasons for the lawful pursuance of their lives. In 'busy' places, such as a 'city, town, village etc.' there should be particular restrictions placed on length of stay varying according to the time of year. Outside of those areas a more 'commonsense' attitude should apply to cater for those of us who are not 'on holiday' but are lawfully living our lives whilst living on a boat.
As British Waterways have encouraged people to come on to the canal but not provided suitable moorings for those who want them and, therefore, created the 'mooring problem' in the first place this 'natural' situation should be tolerated and should require no 'policing' other than as necessary. Most 'problems' on the canals are dealt with by a form of 'self policing' anyway. This would be similar to the situation that existed in the past until the absurd concept of 'continuous cruising' was devised due to British Waterways' inability to deal with certain 'problem elements' on the canal. Applying a draconian set of rules to everyone on the canal who wanted neither to live on a static houseboat nor use a boat as a part time 'leisure activity' was their crass response. The 'problems' still remain and the lives of reasonable people who live on boats has been made a misery by the spiteful and costly bureaucracy that has risen in it's wake.
In the first interpretation of the 'rules of continuous cruising' 'place' was defined as 'parish'.
(NOTE: This is not correct. There was never a rule about moving from parish to parish it was wrongly quoted by BW and assumed to be a requirement. The women of the Northwich office quoted 'parish to parish' when the rule was 'place to place'. My challenging two of them on separate occasions was what started the actions against me. They don't like being 'challenged' or 'corrected'. They regard it as a 'confrontation'.)
This was discarded after the first wave of protest against the new 'Lunacy' and was followed by '10 lock miles' and keep a Log Book to be shown on demand to uniformed 'Enforcement Officers'. After continuing protest this was changed to '6 miles or 10 kilometres' which after further protest was changed to what we have now. Ask ten people on boats 'What are the rules of continuous cruising?' you will get ten different answers. All of them will be wrong. Ask ten employees, including, so-called, 'Moorings Officers' and you will get ten different answers. All of them will be wrong.
Here is the next part of the 'Guidance' :-
'' To remain in the same neighbourhood for more than 14 days is not permitted. The necessary movement from one neighbourhood to another can be done in one step or by short gradual steps. What the law requires is that, if 14 days ago the boat was in neighbourhood X , by day 15 it must be in neighbourhood Y. Thereafter, the next movement must normally be to neighbourhood Z, and not back to neighbourhood X ( with obvious exceptions such as reaching the end of a terminal waterway or reversing the direction of travel in the course of a genuine progressive journey ).
Welcome to the canals.
There is more but I can't face it.
The requirement for the 'progressive journey around the network was adjudged to be unlawful in the Paul Davies case (2011) and Sally Ash subsequently admitted that it had always been unlawful.
The next article deals with the enforcement based on these unlawful rules.