Royal support, liveabord legal battle, trapped boats, EA row, Sharpness vision, roving rally, Cotswold pioneer, CRT shake-up
A DISABLED LIVEABOARD boater given notice to remove his craft from the Kennet & Avon Canal for not cruising enough to satisfy Canal & River Trust’s guidelines will be able to have a legal challenge on human rights grounds heard.
Matthew Jones’s boat Mrs T was reported to have moved less than 5km in two years and his non-compliance with CRT’s interpretation of the British Waterways 1995 Act (that boats should have a home mooring or normally move every 14 days) led the trust to refuse him a licence and give 28 days’ notice to leave.
In the Appeal Court, however, he maintained that not only was CRT’s interpretation wrong (a matter that has been the subject of previous court cases as a result of the failure of the Act to define how much boats need to move), but also that his rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (covering respect for private and family life and home) were being breached, and that CRT had not considered his rights, his personal circumstances, his disability and the hardship that would result.
CRT maintained it was in the same position as a housing authority, for which there have to be exceptional circumstances for Article 8 to be considered in home possession cases – and therefore this part of Mr Jones’s defence should be struck out before the case was heard. The County Court agreed with CRT, as did the High Court on appeal. However the Appeal Court has now overturned this ruling so when the original case is heard, it will include the challenge on human rights grounds.
The trust responded by pointing out that the decision was “not about CRT’s internal processes or procedures, or our interpretation of the British Waterways Act 1995”, that the judges “did not criticise the Trust in this or any other enforcement case”, but rather that it “concerned how arguments about the human rights of live-aboard boaters should be considered by the courts.”
The National Bargee Travellers Association said it was “an extremely important judgment for boat-dwellers” that an Article 8 defence could not be summarily dismissed.