There was a legal process leading to a 'trial' in May 2013. I had a solicitor, on legal aid, and a barrister. No-one can afford to do this other than on legal aid. Shoosmiths will run you out of money. They will run up their own costs knowing you will be unlikely to be able to pay them if you lose and, also, will be unable to finance an appeal. If you 'win' the case they will appeal. Have you got several thousand pounds to waste on this? Have you got access to public funds, charitable donations, licence fee payments and income from a property portfolio? If you think it's easy you're mistaken.
There was the misleading of the court, perverting the course of justice, perjury, false allegations, abuse of process and other 'misconduct ', some of which became evident and some of which we shall never know. Such are the consequences of deception and the intention to deceive. Particularly when involving certain solicitors who specialise in the manipulation of the legal process and, routinely, use false allegations and 'character assassination' as the mainstay of their case.
The case put into the court was not according to my 'instructions', but on legal aid your 'instructions' are disregarded. The solicitor, or solicitors firm, decides what argument they will pursue and briefs the barrister who reduces it still further. What I say doesn't count for anything although I am the one who knows all the facts. Certainly the case with me as I had a file of correspondence and complaint leading up to the court action and had had meetings with BW management as well as having lived on a boat for over 20 years and had a good knowledge of what I regarded as the relevant law.
Incredibly, I am not allowed to communicate directly with the barrister. I have to deal with the solicitor who may, or may not, pass my notes, arguments, wishes etc. on to the barrister. The solicitor controls the case and, importantly, the solicitor's firm 'controls' the solicitor. Solicitors, on opposing sides in a case, communicate with one another and may come to agreement as to what will be submitted to the court. Especially when one party is on legal aid. (I expected to encounter this as I had had previous experience of such conduct and did everything I could to prevent it but if you are repeatedly lied to and given false assurances you are helpless.)
It is usual for the defendant in a legal aid case to, apparently, offer no defence. I was pressured to offer no defence from the start but would not agree (the fact that the first hearing was arranged as a Part 8 hearing was not mentioned and I have only recently realised this was so and is common practice by CRT/Shoosmiths). A Part 8 hearing assumes no defence is offered. An Acknowledgement of Service notice has to be sent to the defendant which he has to put into the court within 14 days. That notice is not sent by Shoosmiths. A serious breach of process right at the start which no-one seems to have noticed. Just one of the 'dirty tricks' Shoosmiths/CRT rely on. (See Freedom of Information request on What do They Know website).
Eventually a 'trial'. Listed for 5 days. First day a reading day for the Judge. I received the submissions for the trial on the Saturday afternoon before the start of the trial on the Monday. (The Judge, also, received the submissions after the due date). I had not had the promised meetings before the trial to discuss the case. My solicitor was, supposedly, on holiday for the 2 weeks before the trial. All carefully planned so I didn't 'interfere' with the case they were presenting. I had been misled as to what was being submitted to the court to 'keep me quiet' as I had objected several times to the defence presented having, initially, had to fight to have any defence offered at all.
If I'd asked for another adjournment I don't think the Judge would have allowed it, having listed it for a week. We had had several adjournments already. I also had to consider whether the legal aid board would increase the funding again and civil legal aid was about to be terminated.
I had been misled as to what would be submitted to the court and had not seen the submissions of the other side in time for me to challenge the lies and false allegations contained therein and had had no discussion relating to the trial itself.
The case presented to the court claimed that I wanted to stay in one place on my boat because I had depression and anxiety. That is not the case. I had called a meeting, with my solicitor and barrister, months before to object that they wanted me to agree to that as a defence. They then went ahead with it without my knowledge or agreement and I only realised it the day before the trial.
The true reason for my initial complaint, which led to the legal action, and an important element in my defence was that, after a serious illness, I had a series of medical appointments relating to investigations into my liver as I had had multiple organ failure following on from pneumonia and septicaemia. BW, as they were then, the Northwich office (probably the worst office for abuse of people) said I could not remain in the area but had to 'continue my journey' - a 'progressive journey around the canal network' (a rule I contested, later declared unlawful). That was both unreasonable and unlawful. (They were doing similar things to other people at the same time as health problems were no longer to be taken into account as reasons for not continuing the pointless journey required by the 'rules'. My initial complaints were about this treatment of people citing specific instances).
I wanted to remain in the area, not, necessarily, in one place but they insisted I 'continue my journey'. I quite correctly, and lawfully, refused and had (further) meetings with the area manager and, subsequently, commenced the Complaint Procedure.
I, also, had depression and anxiety as a result of being in intensive care and on lots of drugs (18 different prescription drugs) and on a ventilator. Apparently a common consequence referred to as ICU Psychosis. I, subsequently, had medication for anxiety and depression but had never said that that was the reason for my needing to stay in the area (although being on anti depressants for three years or more is classed as disability). I have a history of seasonal depression but learned to live with it. Moving around on a boat was one way I dealt with it. I couldn't 'cope' with being in one place for long.
The true account of my dispute with BW was with the court in my first submission to the Ombudsman in the Complaint Procedure and, also, partly in my witness statement so I thought the Judge would question the disparity between that and the case presented.
First day of the trial. Judge said he had not read our submissions. Not surprising as CRT submit hundreds of pages, mostly all the various Waterways Acts. Deliberately excessive to overload the Judge. About 600 pages in my case. (My solicitor said it was the largest 'bundle' he had ever taken to court). I wasn't allowed to put what I wanted into the court as I was told it would be too much for the Judge to read.
A morning of waffling. Judge asking for details from the barristers that neither of them knew as they don't study the background of the case. Only I could answer those questions but I had to keep quiet. Even the Judge said at the end of the morning session he hadn't made a single note as he hadn't heard anything of interest or relevance. £5000 of court time. (£10,000 per day).
Nigel Johnson, Legal Director of CRT, gave 'evidence, mostly related to their insistence that they didn't come under the Equality and Disability Act. I.e. people's health problems or accidents or medical emergencies are no concern of CRT. They don't care and they consider,wrongly, that they don't 'legally' have to care. Such is the attitude of the Canal and River Trust to its 'customers' and licence payers most of whom are at the elderly end of the scale - 50 plus. And ,still, they deny they abuse vulnerable people or those in a vulnerable situation. Nigel Johnson, also, had a lot to do with the drafting of the absurd, and unlawful, rules of 'continuous cruising' - the prescribing of boat movements of which more later (you won't believe it). He was also responsible for retaining Shoosmiths with their reputation for getting rid of people. (That's why they have renamed themselves Shoo- smiths. They were, previously, Shoesmiths.).
In the afternoon my barrister questioned Helen Waterman the enforcement officer who issued the notices to me. I didn't expect him to do this on the first day and had intended to give him a list of questions. But he wouldn't have used them anyway as I'm not allowed to deal with him directly. Can there be anything more absurd and obstructive to the course of justice than not being able to speak to the person who is representing you in court?
The defendant is, essentially, excluded from the process of his own defence. I had sent him evidence that I knew my solicitor hadn't given him but he handed it back to me before the trial started. It was a breach of protocol. No, it was evidence essential to my case. Not in the wonderful world of the practice of law. I know everything about my case, and have a file of evidence and correspondence, but cannot speak to the person representing me or give him information he has not received from the solicitor. (Assuming I know what he has or has not received). The barrister knows none of this, hasn't read what I've given him and is going to spend 4 days defending me in a court where I am not allowed to interrupt or speak other than if questioned under oath.
What questions could he ask when he doesn't know the facts himself?
She claimed she knew nothing about my health problems, central to the arguments prior to the court action, and had had no training in dealing with people with health problems or disability. She knew nothing about boats or canals. Didn't know how wide a boat was so clearly no interest whatsoever in the waterways. Yet is telling people to move in unsafe conditions, she had done the same thing in the previous winter which I objected to, and is 'empowered' to issue enforcement notices leading to eviction. She demonstrated her ignorance being unable to answer questions to such a degree that my barrister called for a recess as he felt sorry for her.
She had, maliciously, issued the notices leading to the court action was, clearly, unsuitable for any job that involved issuing legal notices and giving 'orders' to people who had a lot of requisite knowledge and owned their boat, travelled the waterways in their boat and had a boat licence. And submitted false, and fabricated, 'evidence' to her managers and to the court. And my barrister felt sorry for her.
She had a history of wrongly and unreasonably issuing enforcement notices and I had referred to her in my complaints to BW and the Ombudsman. I made a second witness statement that referred to her 'misconduct' which was not submitted to the court. Never mind, the Judge didn't read our submissions anyway.
The barrister then questioned Jill Overum, who was attending the court as the enforcement manager for the northern area of the waterways. She was also involved in bringing the malicious action and also had a history of wrongly issuing enforcement notices. (One boater received a letter of apology saying she would never work in the area again then she was made manager of the wider area).
She lied about the availability of moorings and also said, in response to a question from the Judge, that a person on a boat whose partner was taken to hospital would probably be allowed to stay in one place to deal with the emergency and would be merely subject to a charge - of £25 per day. That in response to a question about compassionate and reasonable treatment of people with a medical emergency. It is not, actually, the case but something she made up and would, no doubt, have applied.
They both came across as thoroughly ignorant (which we, on boats in the area know already) and as liars. Lying under oath. The next day my barrister was 'off sick' so no hearing. Had it not been for the exposure of the 'enforcement officers' as people not suited for any kind of authority, and appallingly ignorant, I would have considered requesting an adjournment. How could a court accept that people displaying such, obvious, ignorance are empowered to issue instructions to people that put them at risk followed by eviction notices? Such are the people employed by BW/CRT to harass people on boats. A deliberate policy.
(The transcripts of this witness evidence is under heading 'Cogs in the Machine').
Next day barrister back in afternoon. Me on the stand. I had given solicitor a list of questions. We had had no discussion about what to ask me as you would expect. He asked me one question. I was constantly glared at by the Clerk of the Court for trying to speak rather than just answer questions. The Judge said, at one point, that he had not read what I had written, part of complaint procedure submitted by CRT, and had no intention of reading it.
I was then questioned by CRT's barrister. 'Was my liver problem due to drink?' And questions in that vein that I can't remember. I explained that I did not drink and that the liver problem I had was, as noted in my complaints and witness statement due to liver failure - and multiple organ failure - following pneumonia and septicaemia in 2006. He also asked if I had made a phonecall on a certain date. I asked to whom was the phonecall made. He wouldn't say. I think he was referring to a call that was made to me, on the day two 'giggling' girls delivered notice of court proceedings to my boat (one was Helen Waterman). The person claimed to be an enforcement manager in the area but I believe was Paul Griffin, now Head of Enforcement and then enforcement manager on the Kennet and Avon. I believe the call was provocative for the intention of provoking and recording an 'argument. I think the recording was, subsequently, submitted to the court without being disclosed.
False allegations had been submitted to the court relating to arguments with BW staff. Exaggerated accounts and one completely false account. They had claimed that I was 'violent and abusive and a danger to women'. A strange claim about someone whose entire argument is about the abuse of people, particularly those in a vulnerable situation, both male and female, elderly and otherwise and who has pursued that argument in the knowledge that he will never be left in peace and will, almost certainly, be driven off the waterways.
So I'm a 'drunk', as well as dangerous. And, of course, without a doubt they are trying to make me out to be 'mad' as well. Especially, as the word 'psychosis' has appeared, as in ICU psychosis. I am not 'mad'. Although their assault on me would drive anyone mad. And, if I were, I think their subsequent treatment of me would be even more disgusting. I know from experience that, if I didn't have effective anti anxiety drugs, I would not be able to do what I'm doing. Most people give up in the early stages of the harassment due to anxiety etc. Hundreds, maybe thousands, have left the waterways as a result of the intimidation and insecurity they suffer as a result of the harassment policy of BW/CRT. If they tried to challenge it they would, almost certainly, suffer depression, insomnia, acute anxiety and paranoia probably leading to a 'breakdown'. I know several who have tried and had to give up due to the effect on their health. I took it upon myself to challenge them because of that. Nobody, of course hears their story so assume the few that resist are causing trouble for the sake of it. The inevitable price you pay for standing up to a corrupt, but powerful, authority.
NB. Anything and everything written about me and my case is inaccurate. Nobody knows the truth, or the true details, other than myself. The Judgment is totally inaccurate with regard to details of me, my health problems, my boat movements, my arguments and my reasoning. The 'wrong case' was presented to the court. The Judge did not read my accounts in my evidence and witness statement. No-one else is involved in the writing of this account. Generally, any involvement with other people has been a mistake. I have always had a licence, since 1990, and have moved around, while doing a lot of maintenance on my boat - it's a wooden boat so requires a lot of work - for years until I had a serious illness.
I have never caused a problem.. I have 'dealt with' a lot of problems. BW caused the problems by their unreasonable and unlawful actions which I challenged just as I have challenged anyone else who is causing a nuisance. How come I had no trouble for 17 years?
The following day was little more than half a day with little said of any interest. Certainly not what you would call closing submissions. As time had been lost due to my barrister off sick the Judge requested further submissions in writing and he would then hand down a draft submission. I could not submit anything myself but could only make 'notes' to give to the solicitor who would (or may not) pass them to the barrister.
The Judge addressed me directly in the course of the trial and assured me he would find a way whereby I could remain on my boat.