Sunday, 10 March 2013

The sublime and the ridiculous

Which of these is sublime and which ridiculous I leave you to judge.

First there is Nigel Moore's thumping victory in the Court of Appeal. Now that the litigation is apparently concluded more can be said on this.

Then there is shock news that NABO Chairman David Fletcher has been served with an enforcement notice by CRT enforcement officers.

I have to declare an interest as a personal friend and supporter of Nigel. For me the case is the latest part of a larger situation, from over a decade or more ago, when in Brentford (and indeed elsewhere in London and beyond),  the then BW started aggressively (and by a variety of, many believe, dirty tricks) grabbing land and moorings from longstanding moorers, in the name of property development.

In most cases those moorings had been there with full agreement from BW for many years, with no concerns being raised. In the small semi tidal section of the river Brent which forms southern end of the Grand Union the disputes arising from these attempts to throw out long term moorers became particularly bitter and in some cases I believe may still be continuing.

To many of us it appeared there was a clear and organised campaign of collusion between BW's then London Director Mark Bensted and his property developing mates to pursue canalside land at any cost for property development schemes, including where opposed, using a variety of legal threats. BW/CRT have always denied this is the case.

In many cases elsewhere compromises were eventually found, though only usually once supporters, local councillors MPs, London Assembly members and many others got involved rallying round to fight and publicise what most saw as basic injustice and bullying by BW. The crazy thing was most of us did not object to the development provided the existing occupiers or users of the sites were accomodated. This was of course something BW usually failed to even attempt except under duress. However in Nigel's case BW refused any compromise. As Nigel has recently revealed the developers in his case eventually made a seperate settlement with him: BW however were not prepared to settle.

In a previous judgement it had been found that BW had breached Nigel's human rights by not following it's own procedures. Now the Court of Appeal has ripped the whole of BW's action up. If you are into Court Judgements read the more recent Court of Appeal judgement for yourself. For me the nub of it is very simple and I can do no better than quote from Lord Justice Mummery's written judgement:

In the light of what BWB accepted at trial I am unable to identify what unlawful act the claimant was committing that entitled BWB to serve a notice under s.8

It is that simple, BW could not show the Court a good (legal) reason why Nigel should be asked to move his boats from where they had been moored for many years.

We are yet to find out how much this, I believe purely vindictive, pursuit of Nigel has cost, but I am pretty confident it is tens of thousands of pounds. Yes, the case is exceptional but aren't those the ones that need most attention and thought and dare I say it, compromise?

All this then contrasts beautifully with the nugget in the latest NABO News, where our chairman reveals his shame(!) at having been served with an enforcement notice for a lapsed licence while on his marina berth.

The only problem being that said enforcement notice was attached to the same window that contained his current boat licence, clearly valid until this summer. I know it is good to focus on your work but not to the extent that  the enforcement officer failed to notice the boat licence few inches in front of his nose while applying a ticket?

I understand this case is unlikely to be proceeding the the Appeal Court. After being gently asked to 'look at this', there followed profuse and embarrassed apology, admitting they'd stuck it on the wrong boat!

However neither case does much to enhance boaters trust  when it comes to fair and transparent enforcement processes. In both cases they didn't get past the starting post of serving notice effectively and that is a worry.

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