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.    

The theft of my boat by the Canal and River Trust. Part 1. The background to the legal action




This is not the beginning of the story but is, primarily, about the legal action that led to the unlawful seizure of my boat, resulting in my being made homeless and my boat, a historic wooden boat I rebuilt and lived on for 23 years, being destroyed.  This was the intention of BW/CRT and those involved in, what was, a malicious and vexatious action, because I persisted in my challenge of their abuse of people living on boats and would not 'give up and go away' as so many others are forced to do. 

I wanted to expose what they do, what lengths they will go to, in order to silence anyone who challenges them.   I knew what I was doing.  My role was that of a person on a boat refusing to put up with what was obviously unlawful abuse of vulnerable people, elderly and/or with health problems - including the need for temporary access to health services - and challenging the lawfulness of their actions.   (Since deemed to have been unlawful by two judges).  This abuse had increased as of the Spring of 2007 with the introduction of a more stringent enforcement policy specifically targeting people on boats who don't have a 'home mooring' (which they don't need as they live on their boats and which are, in any case, generally unavailable.  Such is the absurd foundation of their 'enforcement' objectives.  Harassing people for no good reason other than the harassment itself to force people to pay for 'moorings' they neither want nor need and will never use).   

I was eligible for legal aid, without which, it would be impossible to do as CRT/Shoosmiths would run up the costs to run you out of money  (CRT have a legal department but retain Shoosmiths  as they specialise in 'getting rid of people, or, as they put it 'removing people who stand in the way of development' ).    

Your chances of success are not good and as they are using public money it's reasonable that you, the defendant, also have public funding.    My purpose was more about exposing them in a court, and publicly, than 'winning' a case.    I could never win as they would never leave me in peace.   My days on the waterways on my boat were over once the legal process had ended.     Here is the story.   Not too much legal detail as it would be unreadable.      

I have lived on the waterways for 23 years, as an individual with no agenda and no affiliations i.e I am not a 'traveller' and I am not a member of a boat club or canal user group.   That applies to most of us who live on boats. We are individuals and, as individuals, we, essentially, have no voice.   CRT will only deal with, what they call, 'user groups', people in clubs or with specific interests, commercial or  otherwise.     We are disparate individuals who are very easy to target and vilify as we are 'itinerant' and are dispersed around the waterways system and cannot, and in my case don't want to, join groups, clubs and societies.  

Contrary to popular misconception, the majority of us have nothing to do with 'subcultures' of any kind and being labelled as such is helpful to CRT in their attack on us.    As I have a wooden boat I am considered by many to be a 'traveller'.  I'm not and being regarded as such has not been helpful.       

Persecution results from people combining together and pursuing their own self interest against others engaged in similar activity who are not 'in their gang'.  When that persecutory attitude is taken up by an authority and made official policy through the agency of a person in that authority who represents the interests of the self interested groups you get the situation that has blighted the waterways for years and destroyed a perfectly legitimate way of life.        I will name people involved in the abuse who are employees of BW/CRT as BW/CRT were a public authority and are now a public body and a charity.   They are using public funds, and donations, to abuse people who live on boats, and drive them from the waterways by draconian, and unlawful, rules and heavy handed, intrusive, unwarranted enforcement activity.  At the time of my original complaint (2007) the 'rule' was to be, permanently, on a progressive journey around the waterways network, staying only for short periods in any one place or area and travelling in the same direction without going back in the direction you came from.

This was the unlawful, and absurd, rules they were enforcing to drive people off the waterways or onto unavailable, unlawful and unsuitable, so called, 'moorings' with threat of legal action and seizure of your boat.  

The person most responsible for the abuse, the 'agent' for boat clubs and hire companies, was the Head of Boating, Sally Ash.  

British Waterways took me to court to get an injunction to remove my boat from the waterways.    The real reason was because I had challenged their abuse of vulnerable people living on boats as a policy using a revised enforcement process, and a target and reward process, using ignorant, and untrained, 'enforcement' officers.

By 'vulnerable' people I am not referring  to people with serious mental health problems or to those with drink and drug problems that may result in anti social or threatening behaviour.   Many of those shouldn't be on a boat on the waterways but there's nowhere else for them so they often get 'dumped' on the canals by various authorities who don't want to house them.   

We all get health problems as we get older.  That doesn't mean we can't cope.  It does mean BW/CRT can put pressure on us to go into a marina or get off the canal as over 50s can be rehoused in sheltered accommodation.   In that case the boat will be sold to someone else who will be pressured to 'get a mooring' right from the start or may be refused a licence.   People on the waterways are mostly over about 50 and have occasional need for access to health services.   This is what BW/CRT would not consider.   The attitude was, and is, if you've got a health problem you shouldn't be on the waterways.   

They adamantly refuse to abide by the Equality and Disability Act or allow people to stay in a place, or area, to access health services.   That is unlawful as well as being unacceptable bullying behaviour that should never have been countenanced by any authority, let alone a Public Authority, but has led to the action taken against me, at considerable cost, in order to defend and perpetuate that abuse.

I have had to explain to them, at considerable length and a lot of detail, and with evidence, that it is not right or reasonable to harass and intimidate and threaten people, for no good reason, in order to achieve an objective relating to profiting from those people, actually from their boats, and so that ignorant people of limited intelligence can achieve targets and receive bonuses. I have explained that they are misusing their authority and acting unlawfully and, even, criminally. I have asked them through meetings, correspondence and the Complaints Procedure to explain and justify their actions. 

I have put it them that their rules are unlawful and their enforcement, based on their rules, is criminal. And I am right. They are guilty of harassment and misconduct in a public office.  

But they still behave like that, they have got worse and they still get support from, so-called, 'user groups', and, particularly, boat clubs and certain canal societies and associated 'propaganda' websites and forums..    

Either this is a representative microcosm of the wider society or the canals and waterways attract particularly obnoxious and unpleasant people.   Actually, such abuse and attitude is becoming increasingly commonplace as evidenced by the abuse of those with health problems/disability by ATOS and DWP.           

The 'excuse' for the court action was my failure to 'continue my journey' - the journey around the network - (an absurd rule that I challenged and has since been deemed unlawful by 2 Judges and acknowledged as having always been unlawful by BW - Sally Ash)  over the Christmas and New Year period, 2009/2010, when the canal was frozen in the coldest winter for 30 years. 

It was malicious as I had recently 'challenged' Helen Waterman, 'enforcement officer', quite rightly as she is an ignorant, 'untrained' person whose job is to harass and intimidate boaters and say nothing except, 'I'm only doing my job'.  She knows nothing about boats, living on boats, canals and waterways, waterways law and has no interest in any of it. She has no empathy with, or understanding of, the problems and challenges of living, full time, on a boat. She is, therefore, the ideal employee to harass and intimidate and threaten people on boats as required to do under the terms of her employment.  (See her witness evidence at my 'trial' under heading 'Cogs in the machine').     

The employees in the area of enforcement are mostly women. When dealing with them it is apparent that to ask a question is regarded as a challenge. A challenge is regarded as confrontation, confrontation is regarded as abuse, abuse is regarded as threat of violence.  It provokes a 'spiteful' response. You will, if you aren't already, be 'targeted', from then on. I've asked a lot of questions so have been targeted for years.

I received a notice revoking my licence and, in the same envelope, a notice (Section 8) ordering the removal of my boat from the waterways - for not having a licence.  

N.B. (particularly for those who say otherwise in their accounts). I always had a licence, they revoked it.  Revoked half way through its term so they owe me about £400.  

That is the start of the legal action. Several courts have thrown out the case before them on the grounds that the licence was revoked by BW/CRT so they can't then enforce a Section 8 notice to remove the boat (actually they 'seize' the boat which is unlawful). Some courts see through them - some don't. Or won't. CRT will not admit to this - see FOI requests on What Do They Know  website, most of which they don't answer.

Wrongly issued enforcement notices, wrongly issued Section 8 notices, then wrongly using a Part 8 procedure for the subsequent injunction hearing. I.e. every dirty trick in the book knowing that, in most instances, they will get away with it.  If you survive that, and the case is continuing, there are plenty more 'dirty tricks' to follow, as you will see.

Challenging them is the same as being a 'whistleblower'.  They can't get you 'sacked' so they try to get you evicted.  Hopefully you do something that can be construed as assault.  If you don't they make it up anyway.  ('Entrapment' through provocation is a part of their enforcement process which is overseen by their solicitors, Shoosmiths, who use such 'tricks' to get 'evidence' for the court).    All 'information' gathered in the 'enforcement' process is aimed at constructing a case for a court using experience of what is necessary to 'fool' a judge. Some of it is entirely fabricated and, as in my case, may be submitted to the court in another form than a signed witness statement.

Fooling the court with well rehearsed procedures is, actually, what the court process mainly entails and what Shoosmiths specialise in.  

They will do anything they think they can get away with - and use your money, boat licences, and public money and 'donations', to do it.   The 'victim' has no resources and stands little chance of anything other than an 'agreement' between themselves and CRT, i.e. you do as you're told, possibly with a court order over your head, with them watching your every move to pounce on the slightest transgression. If you 'win' they will appeal.

Whatever happens they will 'get you in the end'.