Canal & River Trust (CRT) earlier this year stayed Section 8 cases against two boat dwellers without home moorings, Matthew Jones and Christopher McKendrick, following the Court of Appeal judgment in Matthew Jones’s favour on 7th March 2017. The Consent Order sealed by Bristol County Court on 23rd May 2017 shows that CRT reached a settlement with Matthew Jones. Both Mr Jones and Mr McKendrick have now re-licensed their boats without a home mooring. Their homes are not now under threat of being seized by the charity. Both had been deemed by CRT not to have moved “far enough”.
The Court of Appeal judgment concerned one issue in Matthew Jones’s case, namely whether he could present a full Article 8 defence at trial. CRT had applied to have the Article 8 issues in his defence struck out. The charity argued that it should be treated in the same way as a public housing authority, where in eviction cases the Courts consider that Article 8 safeguards are built into the housing authority’s procedures and thus that the eviction is proportionate. The Court of Appeal rejected CRT’s argument.
Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights states:
1. Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Matthew Jones had also raised Equality Act issues regarding disability discrimination in his defence. It is not clear whether CRT was afraid of losing its Section 8 case against Mr Jones because of the Article 8 issues or because of the disability issues. The Court of Appeal judgment stated at paragraph 48:
“In other words, where the occupier is disabled, it is significantly less unlikely than in the normal run of cases that an article 8 defence might succeed.”
Mr McKendrick’s case had initially been postponed until after the outcome of the appeal in CRT v Jones, as his defence also raised both Article 8 issues and Equality Act issues regarding disability discrimination. However his case took a different course because he lost contact with his legal representative. Mr McKendrick had approached the NBTA in early 2017 for advice about claiming Housing Benefit for mooring fees, because by that time CRT was prepared to re-license his boat provided that he took a permanent mooring.
However in August this year Christopher McKendrick informed the NBTA that CRT had agreed to re-license his boat without a home mooring and with a reduced cruising pattern due to his disabilities, as he is entitled under the Equality Act to ‘reasonable adjustments’ to CRT’s enforcement procedure.
CRT stated on 16th June 2017 in response to a Freedom of Information request for the Orders and Judgments in the Matthew Jones case that:
“As a non-party to the proceedings the information you have requested is available upon written request to the relevant court. Permission from the court for the disclosure should not be required as these were public hearings which were filed at court after October 2006 and neither party, to our knowledge, has filed for a restriction order of the judgements and orders”.
The Ministry of Justice stated on 7th July 2017 in response to a Freedom of Information request for the same information that:
“You may wish to contact the court directly to apply for access to court documents under the Civil Procedure Rules” (CPR).
Accordingly the NBTA made a request to Bristol County Court under CPR Part 5.4C (1)(b) and the Court provided the NBTA with a copy of the Order. Mr Jones is bound by a confidentiality clause not to disclose the exact terms of the settlement between himself and CRT.
Matthew Jones was represented by Chris Johnson of Community Law Partnership and James Stark of Garden Court North chambers. Christopher McKendrick was assisted by several organisations including Reverend Richard Alford of the Waterways Chaplaincy and Derbyshire Social Services.
The Court of Appeal judgment of 7th March 2017 is here Canal-River-Trust-v-Jones-final-07-03-2017
The Bristol County Court Consent Order of 23rd May 2017 is here 2017-05-23 CRT v Jones_Consent_Order
Analysis of the Court of Appeal judgment:
Freedom of Information requests: