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Article 8 is engaged in considering eviction based on breach of navigation licence

Jones v Canal & River Trust [2017] EWCA Civ 135

The Court of Appeal found that Article 8 was a relevant consideration for a local authority wishing to evict a resident on a boat, due to a licensing breach.

The applicant lived on a boat which he kept on the Kennet and Avon canal.  It is necessary to have a licence to keep a boat on a canal and the applicant’s licence required him to use his boat for navigation.  However, he had not moved the boat out of a 5km stretch in over 2 years and the River Trust concluded that he was in breach of his licence.  He was served with a notice which required him to remove the boat from the canal within 28 days.

The applicant was disabled which made it more difficult for him to take the boat up and down the canal in order to comply with the licence.  He relied on Article 8 of the ECHR to defend his position.  The Trust sought to strike out this aspect of his defence and the County Court and High Court agreed with the Trust.

The Court of Appeal disagreed.  The case centred on whether the local authority possession cases applied to these facts.  The principle is that local authorities, rather than courts should decide how to manage housing stocks.  This rule applies to secure tenancies and the Trust sought to argue that it should apply in this instance, where its role was to administer canals, including the regulation of who could moor on them.

The applicant argued that the ordinary rules on proportionality should apply and that to make an order that threatened to make a person homeless, thereby impacting on Article 8 rights, required an ‘exacting analysis’ of the factual case said to support that step.  

The Court of Appeal reinstated the Article 8 defence.  The trial court would decide whether it was proportionate to make an order which would result in the applicant’s eviction.  Relevant circumstances included the applicant’s disability.

Read UK Human Rights Blog article here.

ECHR Art. 8