District Enforcement – the Emperor has no clothes

A court in Reading struck out a claim by District Enforcement earlier this year to evict boats from moorings in Reading. The car parking enforcement company is contracted by Reading Borough Council to enforce £100 per day mooring charges on Council owned land on the Thames.

Reading County Court found that District Enforcement had no locus to seek possession of the land upstream of Kennet Mouth at a hearing on 1st May 2019. The company had failed to provide adequate evidence that its contract with the Council entitled it to seek possession of the land. District Enforcement provided the court with an out of date contract and failed to follow the Court’s directions to disclose the entire terms of the contract apart from the financial information. The company withheld significant details in its contract with the Council, putting it in contempt of court. In addition, nobody from District Enforcement appeared at the hearing despite being directed to appear. Throughout the proceedings District Enforcement was represented by Director Danylo Kurpil, who was also re-elected as a Director of the River Thames Alliance for a further year in September 2018 although according to the River Thames Alliance web site he resigned as a Director in January 2019.

Some of the boaters in question had been moored for a considerable time and were unable to move because of long-term illness and disability, and were either pensioners or reliant on very low levels of welfare benefit.

District Enforcement has been contracted by a number of local authorities on the River Thames to carry out enforcement of mooring time limits by imposing daily charges of £100, in violation of the right to moor for a “reasonable time” within the Public Right of Navigation, codified in Section 79 of the Thames Conservancy Act 1932. Caselaw has established that a “reasonable time” cannot be defined in advance, but is dependent on factors such as the weather, state of the river and fitness of the crew; see Moore v British Waterways [2013] EWCA Civ 73.

District Enforcement’s activities also violate any Equality Act rights that protect both liveaboard and leisure boaters from having enforcement procedures applied to them in the same way as they are applied to people who do not share their protected characteristics, such as disability, old age or pregnancy.

The so-called ‘civil contract’ model of mooring enforcement carried out by District Enforcement involves notices threatening the imposition of £100 per day charges for mooring and threats of immediate boat seizure if these are not paid, contrary to the rights of boat dwellers under Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. These guarantee the right to due process and the opportunity to defend oneself from eviction where there is the threat of losing one’s home. District Enforcement then sends demands for payment, having obtained boat owners’ contact details from the Environment Agency.

See also