According to a recent Freedom of Information response from Canal & River Trust (CRT), the charity spent £434,341 in the year to November 2015 on fees to its solicitors Shoosmiths. CRT also confirmed that it does not emply the solicitors on a ‘no win – no fee’ basis. CRT uses Shoosmiths in Section 8 cases where it takes liveaboard boaters to court to evict them from the waterways. This staggering figure demonstrates that CRT is hell-bent on seizing boats and making Bargee Travellers homeless. CRT also uses other solicitors firms such as Bates, Wells and Braithwaite and Stone King for other matters. The original Freedom of Information request is here
CRT recently contracted out the final stage of its continuous cruising enforcement process to Shoosmiths, who issue letters to liveaboards headed ‘Notice of Intended Claim’. This letter is the last in the series of enforcement letters in CRT’s new enforcement policy against boaters without a home mooring, which came into effect on 1st May 2015. CRT is not required to take non-liveaboard boaters to court following a Section 8, notice but Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights mean that it has to do so when a boat is somebody’s home. This is because Article 6 entitles us to due process and Article 8 to respect for our homes.
At least 826 boaters without a home mooring have so far been forced to take licences ‘restricted’ to 6 months or 3 months instead of 12 months since May 2015, according to another Freedom of Information response here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/three_and_six_month_licences#incoming-726801
Extrapolated over a full year, this represents about 25% of all boaters without a home mooring. There are around 4,800 boats licensed without a home mooring according to CRT.
Many of these are boaters who have travelled significantly longer distances than CRT’s ‘advised’ greater than 15-20 miles range. Some of these are boaters for whom it was reasonable in the circumstances not to move, due to mechanical breakdown, illness or injury, as they are entitled by virtue of Section 17 3 c ii of the British Waterways Act 1995. Others have children at school and have travelled as far as possible while still ensuring that their children attend school. Some boaters who were forced to take restricted licences are those disabled or older boaters who should have been protected by the Equality Act 2010 from enforcement on the same terms as able-bodied or younger people but whose Equality Act rights CRT continues to violate.