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Alan de Enfield

EA Fines Unregistered Boat owners

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EA gets tough on unregistered boaters

Published: Wednesday, 05 February 2020

THE Environmental Agency is getting tough—very toughon unregistered boaters.

Nine boaters across the Anglian region have been fined a total of over £9,000 between them for not registering their boats, Alan Tilbury reports.

Priory1BWML Priory Marina

At Bedford Magistrates Court two boaters at BWML Priory Marina were both heavily fined.

Howard Kirtley was ordered to pay £1,149.24 after his boat was found unregistered at Priory Marina.  He pleaded guilty.

Also in Bedford, Jessica Ibbotson, of Spencer Road, Bedford, was ordered to pay £1,014.24 after her boat was found unregistered, also at Priory Marina. She pleaded guilty.

On River Greart Ouse

At Cambridge Magistrates Court David Campion of Oxford Street, Finedon, was ordered to pay £1,204.24 after his boat Dancing Foam was found unregistered at Buckden Marina on the River Great Ouse.

At Northampton Magistrates Court Martin Jewkes of Aspley Way, Peterborough was fined £123 plus costs and compensation of £644.51 for his unregistered vessel Domino.

Also at Northampton Magistrates Court Suzanna Sutton, of West Street, Peterborough, faced a £1,153 fine after pleading guilty by post.

Nine boaters

Altogether nine boaters were taken to various magistrates courts totalling over £9,000 in penalties.

The Environment Agency is warning other boaters who fail to register their boats could face thousands of pounds in penalties, walk away with a criminal record, and even have their boats permanently confiscated.

£97,650

So far this financial year, enforcement action against unregistered boaters has resulted in a total of £97,650.

The Agency even encourages whistle-blowers, by stating that if you suspect a boat is illegal, contact the Environment Agency on 03708 506 506 or email waterways.enforcementanglian@environment-agency.gov.uk.

 

https://narrowboatworld.com/12022-ea-get-tough-on-unregistered-boaters

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Brilliant, enforcement plus naming and shaming. Why don't CART adopt the same policy ?

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17 minutes ago, Troyboy said:

Brilliant, enforcement plus naming and shaming. Why don't CART adopt the same policy ?

I thought that CaRT already took strong action in respect of this particular section of problem ie unregistered boats in marinas. They at least started an arrangement for marina owners to take some of the responsibility for checking and newer access agreements make, I believe, specific provision.

 

The greater part of CaRT's 'problem' is with towpath moored boats and, as far as I can make out, owned by people with very limited means and little scope to act via seeking hefty fines. Instead they pursue a route that generally leads to a loss of the boat as a resolution. This means that their legal route has to be rather different (mainly to do with depriving someone of a potential place to live). Whether or not this wholly explains the different approach I don't know but perhaps Nigel Moore will give us his take on it as he has long taken CaRT to task over their specific methods.

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25 minutes ago, Troyboy said:

Brilliant, enforcement plus naming and shaming. Why don't CART adopt the same policy ?

As you will see from this case with unregistered boats on EA waters, it a a criminal case that has been dealt with by the courts, it is the court that has fined the individuals not the EA.  As these people are now convicted criminals, their name and address details are available to anyone from the court proceedings, and therefore are in the public domain.
 

In the case of CRT, not licensing a boat is not a criminal offence in the same way.

 

That’s my understanding anyway, no doubt I will be corrected if I am wrong.

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5 minutes ago, Mike Todd said:

I thought that CaRT already took strong action in respect of this particular section of problem ie unregistered boats in marinas. They at least started an arrangement for marina owners to take some of the responsibility for checking and newer access agreements make, I believe, specific provision.

 

My understanding is that C&RT don't just fine non-licenced boaters, it always (?) involves boat seizure.

 

The benefit of the EA's route is that if they don't subsequently register the boat, they can repeatedly  fine them.

 

I'm guessing that to have raised the sum quoted they have taken action against some non-marina boats as well.

 

So far this financial year, enforcement action against unregistered boaters has resulted in a total of £97,650.

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

So far this financial year, enforcement action against unregistered boaters has resulted in a total of £97,650.

 

Just a thought, but I wonder how much it has cost the EA this fiancial year (ie 10 months) to employ the people who took these nine legal actions through the Courts? My gut feeling based on experience in the civil courts is that it was probably north of 100 grand, once you take time expended, staff salaries and employment costs into account.

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3 minutes ago, Machpoint005 said:

 

Just a thought, but I wonder how much it has cost the EA this fiancial year (ie 10 months) to employ the people who took these nine legal actions through the Courts? My gut feeling based on experience in the civil courts is that it was probably north of 100 grand, once you take time expended, staff salaries and employment costs into account.

But, if they were already employed then the 'extra' costs would be simply on a marginal costs basis.

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3 minutes ago, Machpoint005 said:

 

Just a thought, but I wonder how much it has cost the EA this fiancial year (ie 10 months) to employ the people who took these nine legal actions through the Courts? My gut feeling based on experience in the civil courts is that it was probably north of 100 grand, once you take time expended, staff salaries and employment costs into account.

You are probably right. Most complex enforcement costs more than it yields in fines, the profit comes from the people who then pay their bills because of the example set.

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Could someone explain - what is an unregistered boat as far as the EA is concerned? Have the owners not licenced their boats, or have they not informed the EA of their ownerships? (And presumably not licenced them, either).  

Edited by Tom Morgan

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8 minutes ago, Tom Morgan said:

Could someone explain - what is an unregistered boat as far as the EA is concerned? Have the owners not licenced their boats, or have they not informed the EA of their ownerships? (And presumably not licenced them, either).

The EA cannot issue licences but they can issue a 'registration', It is effectively the same but legally a very different thing.

 

Although C&RT deny it, it is the same for (what they call) the River only licence, it is legally a River Registration.

 

You don't need a licence to do something that you are legally allowed to do and on Rivers there is a PRN (Public Right of Navigation) so you do not need a licence.

 

Nigel Moore wrote this some time ago :

 

 

To recap then: A 'licence' is exactly what it sounds like – formal permission to do something, without which permission it would be unlawful to do so. 

 

'Registration' is a statutorily imposed identification system having nothing to do with a grant of permission to do anything.

 

Invariably, all canal enabling Acts conferred a right for the public to keep and use boats on them, but invariably also, there was a requirement for all boats to be registered, so that the companies could keep tabs on the boats for charging purposes, and for identifying the boats in the event of any breach of byelaws.

 

By contrast, on rivers, the right to keep and use boats derives from the public right of navigation, and such things as registration requirements did not apply either.

 

Note that even on rivers, charges could be made for things authorised as chargeable by statute, e.g passage through locks.

 

From the passage of the 1968 Transport Act, all conferred navigation rights were abolished. That expressly excluded navigation rights that were not conferred, even if confirmed by some statute. Following 1968 therefore, use by boats of the canals became permissive as opposed to use of the rivers where it remained as of right.

 

In 1975 the BW Act was passed adding to the byelaw making powers a power to demand and charge for licences on the non-river waterways, and accordingly the 1975 byelaws were passed making it obligatory to display licences on the canals. Sadly, BW were in such a rush they forgot that they had not passed the necessary byelaw to make licences compulsory in the first place (!) so the very next year they abolished the 1975 byelaws and passed new ones, making the licence obligatory AND requiring prominent display of same. Registration continued as it always had been, compulsory.

 

The 1971 Act had made no licensing obligatory for boats on rivers, it simply imposed a registration requirement on some of them (the number increased over the years) for a small charge, issue of which could not be refused, nor any conditions attached. Once having paid for this registration for pleasure boats, they were freed from the previous toll demands for individual lock passage.

 

Not until 1995 were any conditions applied to issue of river registrations, and the conditions were limited to the three we all know so well. Of course, if the old BW/CaRT argument over s.43 of the 1962 Act held true, none of the relevant Acts would have been needed, but the argument being nonsense, the statutes were indeed necessary before any of these conditions of use and charging could be made.

 

The old BW EoG 'Informative' was broadly accurate in setting out the details and history in abbreviated and elliptical form.

 

I suppose, from a VAT viewpoint, the charges for registration could be considered to be merely covering an administrative cost, whereas charges for licences could be considered as payment for an offered service or product. The 1983 watering down of the charge level distinction might well attenuate the difference - in perception anyway.

 

Edited by Alan de Enfield
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19 minutes ago, Machpoint005 said:

 

Just a thought, but I wonder how much it has cost the EA this fiancial year (ie 10 months) to employ the people who took these nine legal actions through the Courts? My gut feeling based on experience in the civil courts is that it was probably north of 100 grand, once you take time expended, staff salaries and employment costs into account.

But how much income has been achieved by people keen to avoid the same fate?  Pour encourager les autres

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1 hour ago, Machpoint005 said:

 

Just a thought, but I wonder how much it has cost the EA this fiancial year (ie 10 months) to employ the people who took these nine legal actions through the Courts? My gut feeling based on experience in the civil courts is that it was probably north of 100 grand, once you take time expended, staff salaries and employment costs into account.

Given it is a criminal matter, would the EA need to actually do anything other that pass on the information and perhaps provide expert witnesses, and the prosecution would be dealt with by the crown prosecution service (OK, it’s just another government dept. so either way we pay).

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2 hours ago, Alan de Enfield said:

But, if they were already employed then the 'extra' costs would be simply on a marginal costs basis.

 

Not if they were doing very little else (which may well be the case here). The "marginal" costs could be close to 100%!

1 hour ago, john6767 said:

would the EA need to actually do anything other that pass on the information

 

Have you any idea how much paper-pushing that might involve? Don't forget there will also be a number (unknown) of cases that didn't make it to Court but still required time and money spent on them. 

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1 minute ago, Machpoint005 said:

 

Not if they were doing very little else (which may well be the case here). The "marginal" costs could be close to 100%!

If they are already being paid to 'do very little else' then their costs are already covered, the only additional costs may well be the court involvement.

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2 hours ago, Peter Thornton said:

You are probably right. Most complex enforcement costs more than it yields in fines, the profit comes from the people who then pay their bills because of the example set.

 

2 hours ago, dor said:

But how much income has been achieved by people keen to avoid the same fate?  Pour encourager les autres

 

I wasn't suggesting I was right, just asking a pertinent question!

 

 

1 minute ago, Alan de Enfield said:

If they are already being paid to 'do very little else' then their costs are already covered, the only additional costs may well be the court involvement.

See above.

 

 

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2 hours ago, john6767 said:

Given it is a criminal matter, would the EA need to actually do anything other that pass on the information and perhaps provide expert witnesses, and the prosecution would be dealt with by the crown prosecution service (OK, it’s just another government dept. so either way we pay).

CPS won't be involved. This will all be dealt with by employees at the EA, and they don't even need to be that well legally trained for cases like this, just be able to present the bare facts in Court. When I worked for a government Department I presented cases for over 4 years in Magistrate Courts. 

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4 hours ago, john6767 said:

As you will see from this case with unregistered boats on EA waters, it a a criminal case that has been dealt with by the courts, it is the court that has fined the individuals not the EA.  As these people are now convicted criminals, their name and address details are available to anyone from the court proceedings, and therefore are in the public domain.
 

In the case of CRT, not licensing a boat is not a criminal offence in the same way.

 

That’s my understanding anyway, no doubt I will be corrected if I am wrong.

ISTR that @NigelMoore has previously quoted the legislation that allows BW/CRT to do exactly this themselves, but they have never chosen to do so - they go down the S.8 route instead at a cost of thousands.

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3 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

ISTR that @NigelMoore has previously quoted the legislation that allows BW/CRT to do exactly this themselves, but they have never chosen to do so - they go down the S.8 route instead at a cost of thousands.

 

Nigel Moore 1/11/16

 

The economic argument simply does not fly.

The cost of taking s.8 cases to court for rubber stamping approvals of the process in the undefended live-aboard cases, is on average around £1,000. A simple Magistrate’s Court hearing would cost maybe less – certainly if undertaken by CaRT’s own legal staff. 

It is notable that even in those s.8 cases, some enlightened few judges have dictated that the boaters should be given the chance to cough up the owed fees and so avoid the inevitability of removal.

On top of the figures arising from successfully carried out s.8 seizures and routine Part 8 procedure cases, there are the costs of legal action in defended cases. These have accounted for costs ranging from around £15,000 to a quarter million per case. On top of that, are the unknown sums that have been forked out in reimbursing those who have had sums criminally extorted from them for licences where not required. That figure [already in the tens of thousands if not having reached six figures] is set to rise exponentially if Leigh wins his case. 

Parliament were clearly warned of this in the final House of Lords debate/presentation prior to signing off the Transfer deal, but the Waterways Minister shrugged it off.

Presumably all this expenditure fades into insignificance compared to the annual running budget of some £3 million allocated for licence enforcement. One wonders how much goes towards acquiring new legal staff [ 3 new solicitors were employed recently to add to the existing staff]; certainly, from all accounts, education of enforcement officers has never caught up with requirements, despite earnest promises to the High Court back in 2012.

It is all very well educating boaters in the law - educating relevant CaRT employees would benefit the waterways administration hugely, and not just financially.

 

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14 minutes ago, TheBiscuits said:

ISTR that @NigelMoore has previously quoted the legislation that allows BW/CRT to do exactly this themselves, but they have never chosen to do so - they go down the S.8 route instead at a cost of thousands.

You are correct; not licensing a boat when this is mandatory is a criminal offence prosecutable in the Magistrates Court by Canal and River Trust. This is so provided in the British Waterways 1976 Byelaws. CaRT could do exactly what the EA are doing if they chose to – what is more, in my view, that is precisely what they ought to be doing in place of s.8 procedures.

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11 minutes ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Nigel Moore 1/11/16

 

The economic argument simply does not fly.

The cost of taking s.8 cases to court for rubber stamping approvals of the process in the undefended live-aboard cases, is on average around £1,000. A simple Magistrate’s Court hearing would cost maybe less – certainly if undertaken by CaRT’s own legal staff. 

 

In fact, there are (I have since learned) no court fees payable in bringing a private prosecution for a criminal offence, so pursuing this route as the EA do, need involve only the cost of their employee's time - which is of course salaried anyway. There is no need at all for employment of solicitors or barristers to pursue the case if the in-house legal staff are up to scratch.

 

If, however, professional representation was paid for - and that could be justified before the court - then it is always open to the prosecutor to apply for their costs (even if they fail to obtain a conviction), which, if the guilty party cannot pay, can be reimbursed out of Central Funds. That alone makes prosecutions more financially viable than s.8 removals.

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35 minutes ago, NigelMoore said:

You are correct; not licensing a boat when this is mandatory is a criminal offence prosecutable in the Magistrates Court by Canal and River Trust. This is so provided in the British Waterways 1976 Byelaws. CaRT could do exactly what the EA are doing if they chose to – what is more, in my view, that is precisely what they ought to be doing in place of s.8 procedures.

Is anyone aware why CART have chosen not to go down the same route as EA ? 

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Really don't see what the problem is   .. ............just pay for your license, registration or whatever you choose to call it  , job done 

I hate any kind of Dodger 

Phil

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27 minutes ago, Troyboy said:

Is anyone aware why CART have chosen not to go down the same route as EA ? 

The only reason BW/CaRT have ever advanced for not prosecuting under the byelaws (or the 1971 Act in the case of river registrations) is that the penalties imposable are “derisory”. One of the County Court judges when handing down judgment in an early s.8 case was in complete agreement with that argument re: the proportionality of utilising boat seizure powers.

 

It is a salutary example of a wildly different administrative ethos. The EA ‘enjoy’ broadly similar powers to CaRT reference dealing with unregistered boats &/or boats that can be removed from their waterway. Stats are available on WhatDoTheyKnow that show the numbers of boats the EA had removed from their waterways compared with the numbers of boats prosecuted for failure to register, for roughly the period since CaRT first started up.

 

No boats were removed from the Thames (a few were removed from other regions) even though dozens were prosecuted for registration evasion in the same period.

 

The stats for Cart are almost a mirror image of the EA's; Not a single prosecution yet dozens of boat removals. Essentially, CaRT's avowed reason for choosing not to go the same route as the EA is that criminal convictions are insufficiently punitive for their taste.

 

There is an unspoken reason too, though. Many things CaRT wish to control are not covered by relevant byelaws or statute, and rather than acquire the useful byelaws which they could then use to efficiently target the perceived problems, they have developed the argument that whatever they incorporate into Licence T&C's can be considered mandatory, such that breach of any of them can justify revocation of the licence, with the attendant threat of s.8 to accompany that. It is an effective way to enforce whatever rules they choose, without having to go to the bother and expense of asking government to approve them.

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10 minutes ago, NigelMoore said:

There is an unspoken reason too, though. Many things CaRT wish to control are not covered by relevant byelaws or statute,

 

Remember this ?

 

It was a Mr Green as witness for BW who, responding to a challenge from a barrister, justified his claim that an internal BW memo superceded an Act of Parliament, by reason of its later date.

It left the barrister nonplussed. All he could come out with once back on his chair, was – “Oh, so BW have declared UDI have they?

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1 hour ago, Alan de Enfield said:

 

Remember this ?

 

It was a Mr Green as witness for BW who, responding to a challenge from a barrister, justified his claim that an internal BW memo superceded an Act of Parliament, by reason of its later date.

 

It left the barrister nonplussed. All he could come out with once back on his chair, was – “Oh, so BW have declared UDI have they?

 

 

Very unlikely to forget it, myself. It made an impression.

 

 

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