Last updated: July 26, 2019
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PART 1Case Brief for Ravenscroft v Canal and River TrustName of parties: Mr Leigh Ravenscroft and Canal and River TrustCitation: 2017 EWHC 1874Court: High Court of Justice Chancery DivisionJudges: Asplin JFACTSMr Ravenscroft, (the claimant) and owner of a boat and the Canal & River Trust (The”CRT”). The CRT (the defendant) removed Ravenscroft’s boat from the River Trentand put it in storage. It was returned months later on payment of £8,176. Ravenscroftis accusing the CRT of having no power to remove his boat as they moored it in anillegal part of the river, not the main navigable channel. Ravenscroft believes that thepowers the CRT has to seize it did not apply, making the seizure of the vesselunlawful, given it was moored illegally. He believes the CRT acted out of spite, tryingto recover revenue through licence fees and storage and removal costs.PROCEDURAL HISTORY-LEGAL ISSUES1. How far does the interpretation of the ‘main navigable channel’ extend towithin section 4 of the British Waterways Act 1971.

2. If a removal of a boat can be a breach of Article 1 of the First Protocol withinthe Human Rights Act 1998.3. Whether the removal of the boat and demanded debt is lawful under section 8of the British Waterways Act 1983 given the removal was used for unlawfulmeans, such as distress and whether this was created.LEGAL RULE1. The definition of the main navigable channel can extend to the width of the bank,so bank to bank of the waterway.2. A removal of a boat cannot violate Article 1 of the Protocol 1 within the HumanRights Act 19983.

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No distress is created, as the organisation’s aims were not unlawful, theorganisation is entitled to recover the storage and removal charges experienced in theuse of its powers under Section 8 of the 1983 Act.RATIONALE1.The definition is consistent with the British Waterways Act 1971 and the statute’saim, being to regulate the waterways, the statute refers to regulating the width ofchannels, not the depth.

2. A removal of a boat cannot violate Article 1, of the Protocol 1 within the HumanRights Act 1998 if the interference is done in public interest and keeping thewaterways clear would benefit and please the whole community.3. No distress is created, as this was not the Trust’s aim, the seizure was pursued tokeep the waterway safe and clear and since the boat lacked a certificate making othersat risk.

So neither s.1 nor s.4 of the Statute of Marlborough are relevant, as no distresswas created given the possession was not to gain revenue.

Organisations are entitledto recover the storage and removal charges experienced in the use of its powers underSection 8 of the 1983 Act.DISPOSITIONClaims were dismissedPART 2Statutory interpretation is necessary as ‘we live in a world in which all language isindeterminate and interpreters cannot help but confront language through a lensdistorted by personal ideology’. The interpretation of a statute needs to be found and 1applied in a meaningful way to uphold justice, yet ‘even the most precisely craftedstatute cannot ..

.resolve all the disputes that arise under the act’. So facilitating 2approaches can help fill gaps, given ‘courts cannot fill gaps; they cannot …

attemptthemselves to supply the answer’,3These useful approaches all lead to different judgments. Judge Asplin chooses thepurposive approach, which aims to ‘give effect to the purpose of legislation’. The 4approach readily embraces ‘much extraneous material’, including the use of aids to 5construction and precedent, which help to decrypt legislation.Asplin has to judge 3 claims in this case: Mr Ravenscroft, (the claimant) and owner ofa boat and the Canal & River Trust (The CRT). The CRT (the defendant) removedRavenscroft’s boat from the River Trent and put it in storage and returned it monthslater. Judge Asplin dismissed Ravenscroft’s claims and within this essay, herjudgment and the methods used to reach this judgment will be assessed, thesubstantial impact of the purposive approach, the slight reference to aids toconstruction and precedent will also be influential factors.

This essay will discuss andevaluate Asplin J’s judgment, within the first issue, Asplin has to address how far themeaning of the ‘main navigable channel’ extends to within the British Waterways 6Act 1971.71 Randal N M Graham ‘What judges want: judicial self-interest and statutory interpretation’2009 30 Statute Law Review 3.2 Frank B Cross ‘The Theory and Practice of Statutory Interpretation’ (SUP 2009) .3 Royal College of Nursing of the UK v Dept. Health & Social Security 1981 1 All ER 545(HL) (Lord Wilberforce).4 Pepper v Hart 1992 3 WLR 1032 (HL) (Lord Griffiths).5ibid.

6 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft and Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874.7 British Waterways Act 1971 s.4.Asplin admits ‘Hansard and Select Committee Minutes’, both extrinsic aids, to be 8inadmissible, by rejecting these sources and only using intrinsic aids, she limits herability to find the statute’s construction since ‘its legislative context and policycontext are shown by any admissible material, such as … Hansard’. Asplin 9perceives the criteria to use Hansard is not met; ‘reference to Parliamentary materialsas an aid to construction is permissible’, ‘where legislation is ambiguous’.

?This 10 11criteria allows for inadmissible materials to become admissible, Asplin disagreessince the 1971 Act, does not ‘lead to absurdity’ so she ignores the aids. 12There is difference to her decision since the aids should have been used, givenambiguity is present in the 1971 Act. The Act refers to boats cruising on ‘the mainnavigable channel of each of the inland waterways’ being vague, it continues in 13Schedule 1; ‘the Trent Navigation is from the tail of Meadow Lane Lock, Nottinghamto Gainsborough Bridge’. The statutes are not entirely ambiguous but disjointed as 14the pieces of information are within a different section of the Act. Asplin’s judgmentis progressively invalid, the description of the channel was extended, including: ‘TheTrent Navigation from Shardlow ..

. by way of the Beeston Canal…’ The Act would 15not have been revised if there was no need to, so the 1971 Act lacks clarity, thus theAsplin’s judgment is marginally distorted.

Yet it is not utterly awry, she follows the purposive approach by putting herself ‘inthe shoes of the draftsman’. She assumes the aim is ‘to regulate the use of 16waterways and to raise revenue’, so she dismisses the claimant’s interpretation since 17it is incompatible with the aim, a sound decision and use of the approach. Her choice8ibid.9 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6).10 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 9.

11 Pepper v Hart (n 5) 640 (Lord Browne-Wilkinson).12 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6).13 The British Waterways Act 1971 s4(1).

14 ibid.15 The British Waterways Act 1974 s36(2).16 Maunsell v Olins 1975 AC 373 (HL) (Lord Simon).17 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 20.of the purposive method is justified by Maunsell v Olins , where the approach was 18embraced to aid the clarification of a statute, very alike Asplin’s task.Extrinsic aids and precedent have a slight impact on the judgment, she refers to theFraenkel Committee Report 1973, an extrinsic aid, she dismisses it as it post-dates the1971 Act so cannot be persuasive, the purposive approach involves findingParliament’s present-day aim and the report would not shed light on Parliament’sobjective since it succeeds 1971. She shadows Arden LJ’s approach in 9 Cornwall ,19which enthuses the purposive approach, which took place in the Court of Appeal, asuperior court to the High Court of this case, so is binding, yet she wisely does not usethe case as precedent as it post-dates the Act, rendering the case non-binding, yet, it isused as an indicator to use the purposive approach to find the statutory interpretation.Asplin’s judgment is partially flawed given her ignorance to the ambiguity within the1971 Act, her actions are impactful in the judgment since extrinsic aids highlight thepurpose of statutes and given the majority of them derive from parliamentary sourcesor academics, both in possession of valuable information, they are valuable sources.

To set them aside would make decoding a statute difficult and lead to a restrictedjudgment since not all possible sources have been confronted, interpretation has notbeen fully implemented, hence a misinterpretation of the statute’s meaning is fairlylikely, consequently hindering justice. The likelihood of this reduces as her approachsince precedent, interpretation and extrinsic aids is fairly thorough, causing herjudgment to be secured by the use of relevant sources. Asplin concludes withrationalised confidence that the ‘main navigable channel’ refers to the width of the 20waterway, so simply ‘bank to bank’.21The second issue raised concerns the removal of the boat and how that breached theHuman Rights Act 1998. Asplin continues to use the purposive approach to decrypt18 Maunsell (n 16).19 9 Cornwall Crescent London Ltd v Mayor & Burgesses of the Royal Borough of Kensington& Chelsea 2005 EWCA Civ 32420 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 1.

21 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 21.the legislation, questioning whether ‘the objective of section 8 is sufficientlyimportant to justify the limitation upon Mr Ravenscroft’s property rights’.22She concludes with good reason that the aim of section 8 is to keep the ‘waterwayssafe and accessible’ asserting that the removal was to keep unlawful boats out of the 23waterway. Her decision could be valid, although assessing the actions and motives ofthe Trust is crucial, Asplin referred to the Bank Mellat case, where a proportionalitytest is suggested which assesses the balance between ‘the rights of the individual andthe interests of the community’. Asplin uses the test to confirm that the Trust acted 24proportionately regarding the removal of the boat, as it was their aim was to keep thewaterways maintained which coincides with the criteria in the test; the ‘objective issufficiently important’ .

The next criteria is fulfilled as the objective links to the case, 25as the aim was to ‘benefit of the whole community’. She rationally concluded that 26their actions were lawful since ‘a removal of a boat can be lawful when ‘in the publicinterest”, which the Trust considered resulting in a compelling conclusion. 27Aids to construction were facilitated during the weighing the Trust’s behaviour, theBank Mellat case was used as an extrinsic aid since she followed a test suggestedfrom the case, this guided Asplin to come to her conclusion, the case was impactfulsince the test led to the judgment. Asplin’s use of the aid was reasonable shethoroughly applied the requirements of the test to the case, gauging well to see if theTrust acted justly, which led to the wholesome judgment of the statute’s meaning.

However little precedent was used to contribute to the judgment, despite this normallyhaving a role in the purposive approach, the issue itself was not that elaborate, so didnot need further aid. The Bank Mellat case had several cases developed from it thathelped construct the judgment, these almost act as precedent, so despite the role ofprecedent being small concerning the second issue, no further precedent was neededto reach the judgment as it had already been found through previous sources. Asplin22 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 2923 ibid24 Bank Mellat v Her Majesty’s Treasury 2013 UKSC 38, 2014 AC 700 (Lord Sumption).25 ibid.26 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 30.

27Human Rights Act 1998 art.1.consulted intrinsic aids often, citing legislation found within the 1983 Act, thisenabled the judgment to be exceedingly relevant as most of the conclusion wasweighed upon the proportionality test which directly questioned the 1983 Act, sointrinsic aids were also constructive on the judgment.

Largely, the decisions madecannot be faulted, the construction she settles for fits section 8 and she obtains themeaning of the legislation through the intensive use of the purposive method andother aids, causing an equitable judgment, due to her in-depth manner to statutoryinterpretation.The last claim involves whether the removal of the boat and demanded debt is lawfulunder section 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983 given the removal was used forunlawful means, such as distress. Asplin reiterates the purposive and literal approachto decode the issue, leading to a fairly reasonable resolution.Asplin affirmed in her judgment above, that section 8’s motive is the ‘orderlymanagement of the waterways and.. safety’ , not ‘the recovery of arrears of licence 28fees’. This application of the purposive approach is helpful since it eliminates the 29argument that the removal of the boat was unlawful given the powers they used didnot concern the raising of revenue. The role of the interpretation is major since Asplinbases the majority of her judgment on the concoction shes uses, but the impact is notal firmly positive, as Asplin misses details from sources.

Plentiful resources were used skillfully, most were not exactly respectable sources;the CRT website, general legal knowledge and facts of the case, although not quitereliable, they are relevant. Asplin addressed other external materials to reach herjudgment that the removal of the boat had lawful grounds. She notes that if revenuethrough licence fees was their goal, the Trust would have set up civil proceedingsalready as these are needed to recover a debt, a clever conclusion. Asplin recalls thecase facts drawing on how none of the notices made any reference to the arrear offees, evidently showing this is not the Trust’s aim.

She further supports her argument28 Mr Leigh Ravenscroft (n 6) 32.29 ibid.with legal knowledge, that the Trust has the rights to recover storage and removalcharges, which is indeed correct; ‘all expenses incurred by the board in the removal,storage .

.. may be recovered ..from the owner’. Asplin’s methodical use of sources 30and careful application of law guides her to a fair judgment.Asplin states ‘no loss was suffered’, as distress did not occur given the Trust did not 31aim for the fees to cause distress, she is quick to dismiss the Statute of Marlborough,she uses the literal rule, so ordinary meaning of the word ‘distress’ to recognise thatnone was created, as it was not done so purposefully.

The statute is from the 13thcentury and ‘distress’ has potentially widened since due to societal change, this couldexplain her dismissal of the other potential loss. Within Ravenscroft’s witnessstatement he reveals he had agreed to sell the boat for £28,000 and due to the removalof the boat ‘lost an agreed sale’. Asplin did not count this is as distress or address 32this, likely as the Trust would not have known of the sale, so could not deliberatelyimpose distress. Otherwise, this could have led to an altered judgment given theremoval directly affected Ravenscroft’s finances, possibly entitling him tocompensation.She concludes that Ravenscroft’s claims carry little weight and will be dismissed.

Overall, the use of the purposive approach has a prevailing influence in interpretingstatutes, after finding the aim of a statute the meaning tends to follow shortly, as itdirects her to the construction, rendering its impact substantial. The role of aids andparticularly precedent is sidelined due to the approach’s immense role, creating anabsence of alternative resources. Yet aids help to build upon the judgment, fleshingout and making it more cohesive, the concoction of the purposive approach and theaids create a powerful and mostly accurate statutory interpretation mechanism. Attimes Asplin seems to have considerable power when judging, especially given ajudge’s role is to interpret the law and that of the legislators is to apply it, there seemsan unfitting swap of roles.