Testimonial

An account of the abuse of people living on boats on the waterways by the Canal and River Trust, previously British Waterways.   Then a Public Authority, now part Public Body, part Charity.   In receipt of public funds and public donations.  The account is based around the story of me and my boat Pearl, a converted Thomas Clayton tar boat built 1935.  It's not about me it's about them and their deliberate persecution of people, particularly 'vulnerable' people, who live on boats, and those who collude with them for their own selfish interests, and those authorities that allow them to get away with it.     

You don't have to live on a boat to find it alarming.    

5. Negotiations with Shoosmiths and the Canal and River Trust

Negotiations   

As the court had made CRT give an undertaking that, if I obtained a mooring for my boat, they would have to reinstate my licence and I could remain on the waterways that was my only realistic option.   I couldn't afford an appeal and couldn't risk losing and could not get representation.  At the trial, and in the Judgment, the Judge stated that I need never use the mooring.   At the trial he gave me an assurance that he would not let them take my boat

After an exchange of emails about what agreement could be reached, and some threatening emails from CRT/Shoosmiths, I had to find a mooring.  (One email had an 'attached' letter that could not be printed and 'self destructed'.  I don't remember what it said.).  

The only moorings were in marinas, unlawful i.e. no planning permission, and expensive.  The Judge had been told there were 9 moorings available from £25 per week.  That was untrue, and affected the Judge's decision.  CRT/ Shoosmiths were unable to provide that list when I asked for it.  They listed 9 mooring sites, not available moorings, some miles away and only one payable by housing benefit assuming there was a vacancy.

Were any of these, so-called, 'moorings' available none would be residential, i.e. have planning permission, and would, therefore, as CRT admit, be unlawful. CRT have required people to sign an agreement that they don't live on the boat when they are living on the boat and have been forced to take the mooring by CRT.          

I had to quickly arrange a mooring, lawful or not, even if there was no actual mooring as I was getting threatening emails.  I then arranged another mooring where I could claim housing benefit, which I don't agree with and stated as much in my witness statement,  as I am being forced to take a 'mooring' that I don't want and don't need and don't have to, or want to, use.   Why should I be forced with threat of seizure of my boat to take an unlawful mooring I don't want to, or have to, use and claim housing benefit as I can't afford to pay for a 70ft marina mooring out of a pension.   I, actually, did this once before, as an 'experiment'.   I told the Housing people I didn't want the mooring but the only way we could be free from harassment on the waterways was to have a mooring.    I had been told to do this by an enforcement supervisor, the manager of Border Counties and the Ombudsman.  Eventually, as I was not on the mooring when they came to check up, they cancelled my claim. ( A mooring in a marina is not, usually, a  specific allocated location.  If you leave the marina you may not be able to get back in unless they can fit you in.  One reason people in a marina are reluctant to leave their mooring).    I didn't want to do this again but had no choice.

Because my boat is 70ft long I had to pay for a 70ft mooring.   It is an old working boat that I rebuilt and maintain.   I don't have a 70ft boat because I have a lot of money, that is the length of a working boat.   As it is I am too long for a lot of the waterways system - due to the length of the locks - and too wide for some locks.   I then am expected to pay for a mooring I neither need nor want based on the length of my boat.   Such is their attitude to people who preserve historic boats.    CRT have absolutely no interest in history or heritage.  They are property developers using public funds and public donations and the rents in BWML marinas to fund their 'enterprises', mostly building flats in joint ventures with supermarkets etc.    That is why they want boats on moorings in marinas.  BWML 'acquire' marinas through a process of 'development by acquisition'.   All marinas will, eventually, be BWML marinas.  The mooring fees do not go towards the maintenance of the waterways, BWML is a private subsidiary (or will, eventually, be).   The 'profit' goes to fund various enterprises, not necessarily in the interests of the waterways, and the further development of BWML.   

Potential marina developers were promised that BW would force people into their marinas to encourage them.  To that end they used draconian enforcement to force people into marinas or off the canal.   If driven off the canal someone else will buy your boat and 'do what they're told'.  (This was admitted to me by a BW manager).

The 1995 Waterways Act is the basis of this enforcement.   It is a Private Act.  A challenge to the Act must be considered favourably.   If the challenge is considered correct the Act or, presumably the relevant part of the Act,  is deemed to be unlawful.  A challenge that the Act is being used to create private profit is a correct challenge.  The 1995 Act, or that part of it relating to 'enforcement' and required movement, is unlawful.   

Another challenge that would render the Act unlawful is that it is ambiguous.   It is ambiguous.  It has been misinterpreted and argued about and challenged since 1995. It has been said to be ambiguous by a court. Sally Ash has said that it is ambiguous.  She who has most damagingly misinterpreted it in the creation of, so called, 'Continuous Cruising'. She has stated, in writing, that it is ambiguous.  (Shoosmiths' barrister said the same thing in his written submissions).

The 1995 Waterways Act, the misuse of which, is responsible for the abuse of people on boats for nearly 20 years, is unlawful.    The rules of, so-called, 'continuous cruising' are unlawful and, as I claimed, the draconian bullying and harassment that they call 'enforcement' based, as it is, on an interpretation of that Act, is criminal.   

But what BW/CRT do, and are allowed to do, appears to be above the law.  They act as if they are above the law and they are right because no government authority or judicial authority will stop them.

But, as this is the 'way things work' we must all 'play the game' or 'pay the price'.   There is no 'rule of law', there is a rule of 'expedience'.  Which is why most people 'keep their heads down' and resort to 'ducking and diving' and advise others to do the same.                        

There is a choice between not having a mooring and being, ludicrously, considered a 'freeloader'  and subject to harassment, and ridiculous 'rules', or getting a mooring and claiming housing benefit (most people living on boats have a low income - by choice) and then being castigated for claiming benefits and risking a claim of benefit fraud.  I wrote all of this in the witness statement that was submitted to the court but the Judge didn't read it.   

Living in a marina is in a 'grey area'.  If you choose to do at your own risk that's up to you.  If the marina operator chooses to allow it it's up to them.  It is unlawful but many authorities 'turn a blind eye'. The decision is based, as always, on 'expedience'. (I have an email from a local council stating exactly that). But to be forced into the 'grey area' with threat of legal action leading to 'eviction', by the waterway authority and the Ombudsman and, then, a court ruling is clearly, and obviously, wrong.   But that is the situation because BW/CRT seek to make 'rules' and 'law' out of unlawful behaviour that they can benefit from.  And they get away with it through their actions and the innate, systematised 'accepted' processes and procedures of the law and the courts.  Actual 'law', what is lawful, which must include what is 'reasonable', is smothered by the blanket of expedience.   In cases involving abuse by an organisation such as BW/CRT the overriding consideration is 'management must have the right to manage'.    Or, as expressed by CRT in my case in response to the Judge's question as to why it was necessary for me to be removed from the waterways, ' It is necessary for the efficient management of the waterways.'  Presumably things have vastly improved since I've gone. Well worth the cost of considerably more than £100,000.   (And more to come).

In the midst of this my sister went to New Zealand for a month.  She lives close to my mother who is 91 and in sheltered accommodation.   Two days after she left my mother was rushed to hospital in a very confused state.   I, obviously,  had to go to the hospital to help look after her as a priority.   As I don't have a car I had to use buses. Four buses. The bus stop was reasonably close to where I was moored, about a mile.   

I wrote to Shoosmiths explaining this and saying I would like to alter my arrangements under these circumstances and offered to pay a winter mooring fee to stay where I was and have my licence reinstated or re-applied for.   I explained that I did not know where my mother would go if she came out of hospital so couldn't commit myself to a long term mooring arrangement where I had arranged a mooring.  Also, where I was I had a phone signal and an internet signal, essential in the circumstances.   I had an arrangement, in writing, with another marina but, due to its location, it is impossible to get a phone signal there.  

I, also, queried their requirement that if I left the mooring, presumably a marina mooring, and ventured onto, what they called, CRT water they would execute the court order.  It appeared that they were saying that I must remain on what they referred to as 'private water' and never return to CRT water. (Indicating that they consider marinas to be 'private water' so, presumably, you don't need a licence).

The court order would remain active forever and I would be at risk of having my boat 'seized' anytime I left the marina. This was obviously unreasonable and further proof that CRT were determined to take my boat (and make me homeless) and would not comply with an arrangement - and undertaking to the court - such as reluctantly agreed with the Judge, whereby I could remain on the waterways.   

They didn't reply to the letter. They should have done.  I was arranging a mooring with them and offering to pay for a new licence. This was necessary under my circumstances and reasonable in the circumstances. This was perfectly in accordance with the Judge's instructions.  I was negotiating, in good faith, a means whereby I could pay for a useable and useful mooring most suited to my circumstances.   I was not refusing to have a mooring or refusing to pay a licence, I was negotiating as the Judge required.   But, of course, as CRT were vehemently arguing, and Nigel Johnson had insisted in the court, health problems, disability and, presumably, family emergency, were not given consideration and were of no consequence. 

And, as I said, the case against me was malicious and there was no intention of letting me stay on my boat on the waterways.

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