Tuesday, 15 September 2015

NABO, BW/CRT and legal stuff - some personal retrospective!

I don't look at Canalworld Forum that much cos frankly I find that there is a lot of junk verging on personal abuse in there which is not constructive. However NBW's article highlighting that the CRT vs Wingfield transcript is now in wider hands prompted me to look.

Sterling work from my old mucker Nigel Moore and others here and I believe more valuable insights now (and to follow no doubt) into what I previously wrote about as the double edged sword.

Out of all that there were some comments about NABO and its 'legal activities'. I wrote about this a while back and it is notable to me that the 2013 post is one of the most read  on ths blog. I have felt moved to write some more now, albeit largely about past matters, which is now up on CWF and which I reproduce here for your consideration.

NABO and legal 'advice' etc


NABO Council may hate me for starting this one but I would like to offer some thoughts as a former NABO Council member.

For the avoidance of doubt nothing I say here should be taken as representing NABO's present thinking which I am not in general a party to other than as a regular member these days.

Also others who were party to what I am about to say at the time may take a slightly different view. It is for them to decide whether it is constructive to say anything in a public forum. I will meanwhile take the chance...

In the discussion of CRT/Wingfield a few comments came up about giving legal advice and NABO etc. http://www.canalworl...showtopic=78861

As Mark (Tuscan) indicated NABO has never claimed to be or tried to be anything like a CAB or Law Centre for boaters' individual cases. We are a volunteer organsation with limited funds and I believe do not have all the professional skills to do that sort of work properly. The concensus on doing that sort of individual case work when I was on Council was very much we are not qualified to help to that degree and might do more harm than good if we went there.

I have personally at times helped groups of boaters to hopefully better organise themselves where there were common problems but that is I suggest very different from giving formal legal advice.

At the times when we sought Legal Counsel when I was on NABO Council it was primarily about getting professional advice for the benefit of NABO Council, to test/check the lay opinions and views we had formed internally about the dubiousness as we saw it of how BW and subsequently CRT was interpretting the legislation in order to impose new 'rules' on boaters.

As has been discussed elsewhere BW and CRT can at times be litigously agressive towards critics and we wanted to be confident we were on firm ground with our criticisms when we dealt with them. In effect I, and I believe others involved, saw taking Counsel's Opinion as due diligence stuff on NABO Council's part, before we laid into BW/CRT.

The point I am trying to express is that the purpose for which we sought such opinions was for the corporate benefit of NABO and the comfort of Council as the association Directors, when trying to argue for revisions and moderation with the corporate BW/CRT and not directly to defend individual cases or actions by BW/CRT against any given boater.

We were during my time very clear on this difference and trying to apply Counsel's opinion intended for one purpose to another seemed to us risky and inappropriate. What we were doing would perhaps also signpost members and others to potential flaws in BW/CRT's case should BW/CRT take action against them personally.

Decisions at the time about withholding the advice from the public domain were therefore in part about not wanting the advice we had sought to be mis-applied, but also tactical in terms of conducting our discussions with BW/CRT to as we saw it greatest effect, about not showing all our hand too early. These were carefully considered subjective judgements which I personally stand by, which were certainly attempted in good faith after detailed collective deliberation in NABO Council (at times prolonged over several meetings).

The other thing I believe is that we were rigourous about discussing these intentions and tactics internally with our members. We spent many hours in NABO Council trying to make sure we fed back to members. In NABO News and over several AGMs and by other means we purposely put these matters on the agenda with the intention of doing all we could to ensure that members had every opportunity to question and if they wanted challenge the approach we took.

We also (again after considerable internal discussion) took the view that those who were not paying members should not be allowed to influence our thinking unduly.

I hope this sheds some constructive light on past thinking in NABO. We may not have got everything right and might have made different choices but I believe everything we did was in good faith with our members.

If we were 'guilty' of anything I believe it was only that we were (some might say, unduly) cautious about knowing our limitations and acting in the best interests of our paying members. I hope some of you at least will agree that this is not a bad position for a membership organisation to take.

(Original at http://www.canalworld.net/forums/index.php?showtopic=79256
Edited for formatting corrections 16/9/15

No comments:

Post a Comment