PART from time to time as a thoroughfare

PART 1Write a case brief of Ravencroft v Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch).Name of Case: Ravencroft v Canal and River TrustCourt: High Court (Chancery Division)Citation: 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch)Judge: Asplin JEssential Facts: In January 2015 Mr. Ravenscroft’s boat was removed from its mooring on the River Trent by Canal and River Trust (“CRT”) and placed into storage because Mr. Ravencroft (“R”) lacked a pleasure boat licence. The boat was later returned on payment of £8,176, at which point R began legal action against CRT.Procedural History: In the previous judgment made by Marsh CM of the Chancery Division, the claimant’s boat had been validly seized by CRT, hence requiring the claimant to pay for its storage and return. R entered an appeal against this ruling.Legal Issues: (1) Whether CRT had lawfully removed the boat. It would not have power for removal if the boat was moored in a part of the river that did not constitute the ‘main navigable channel’, according to R.(2) Whether the removal of the moored boat was a breach of R’s rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”),  specifically under Art 1 of the First Protocol to the HRA regarding the protection of property.  (3) Whether CRT had breached the Statute of Marlborough 1267 – whether CRT had levied unlawful distress because it had taken custody of the boat and then demanded arrears of licence fees as part of the condition for returning it.Ratio: (1) The phrase “main navigable channel” is not confined to the deepest part of any waterway, river, canal or navigation which is used from time to time as a thoroughfare but extends from bank to bank on the main river, excluding tributaries.(2) The waterways must be regulated for the benefit of the whole community. Hence it is appropriate to take such steps as are necessary to remove boats in the circumstances set out in section 8 of the 1983 British Waterways Act and as such there was no breach of the HRA.(3) The vessel was removed from the water for the purposes of s 8 of the British Waterways Act 1983. It was not taken by CRT in satisfaction of the arrears of licence fees. Rationale: (1) The main purpose of the British Waterways Act 1971 was the imposition of a licensing system in order to regulate the use of waterways. According to this context, confining the meaning of “main navigable channel” to the deepest part of any waterway, river, canal or navigation which is used from time to time as a thoroughfare would make a nonsense of the regulatory provisions contained in the Act and would render it unworkable. (2) Due to the fact that the owner is known, the vessel is not confiscated and can be recovered on payment of the storage and removal charges. This is therefore a proper and fair balance between the competing interests of the community and rights of the individual and not an infringement upon R’s Human Rights.(3) Distress was not levied and therefore, neither section 1 nor section 4 of the Statute of Marlborough is relevant.Disposition: Appeal Dismissed.PART 2Critically discuss the role of statutory interpretation in the High Court’s judgement in Ravencroft v Canal and River Trust. Your answer should include which approach(es) to statutory interpretation the court employed and whether any aids to construction were used. What role (if any) did precedent play in the judgement?Statutory interpretation is the interpretation of statutes by judges when applying them to cases. It is based on three key principles, the literal rule, the golden rule and the mischief rule. These traditional rules serve as basic guidelines for courts to follow when interpreting an Act of Parliament. The literal rule states that judges must give effect to the plain meaning of statute law if it is unambiguous, even if the outcome may be unjust or immoral, as the will of parliament must be followed. The golden rule was explained by Lord Wensleydale to allow judges to modify the ordinary sense of words in a statute to avoid an absurd outcome, or inconsistency with the rest of the statute. The purposive approach builds upon this rule and is a more modern approach introduced by the European Economic Community in 1973, primarily intended for use when deciding on matters regarding European Union law. Lord Simon provided a definition of this approach, stating that statutory construction must be based on the original meaning of Parliament behind drafting said legislation. This allows for a more investigative approach and room for development of laws by the judiciary instead of the legislator, such as admitting Hansard as an external aid to construction in accordance with the purposive approach in Pepper v Hart 1993 AC 593 paragraph 640B-C. The purposive approach has seen increased use and is now commonly used in domestic cases that do not have connections with EU Law, such as in R (Quintavalle) v Secretary of State for Health 2003 2 AC 687 where the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 was given a purposive construction.Finally, the mischief rule is derived from the Heydon’s case and provides judges with the most flexibility, allowing them to modify a statute’s meaning according to their own discretion with the aim of overcoming uncertainties and unjust outcomes. This is rarely used however as it can be argued that this approach overrides the will of Parliament.In this case, the phrase ‘the main navigable channel’ was construed in its legislative and policy context. Asplin J came to a decision that the British Waterways Act 1971 was enacted mainly for the imposition of a licensing system in order to control the usage of waterways and to raise revenue for related services, and as such, if the appellant’s interpretation were to be used, then an absurdity would result where the control and licensing provisions in the British Waterways Act become obsolete or unenforceable. Hence the court adopted the purposive approach to reach the judgement that said the phrase includes the entire river from bank to bank, as opposed to including only the deepest part of the river, or “thoroughfare”, in keeping with the approach used by Arden LJ in a previous judgement. As a result the seizure of Ravencroft’s boat by Canal and River Trust was deemed lawful as the boat was moored on the River Trent without a pleasure boat license. Therefore it can be said that precedent played a major role in assisting the court in deciding which approach to take when deciding on the intended meaning of statute law. Additionally, in the current case, other external aids to construction were referred to by Asplin J as inadmissible. These include extracts from Hansard and Select Committee Minutes.  They were not taken into account as the criteria in Pepper v Hart 1993 AC 593 are not met. With that said the Fraenkel Committee Report was referenced when determining whether the phrase “main navigable channel” included only the deepest parts of a waterway, or the entire waterway from bank to bank. However, Asplin J stated that this Report is not relevant as an aid to construction and does not take it into consideration in that regard as it was released after the 1971 British Waterways Act. In terms of internal aids to construction the Preamble to the 1971 British Waterways Act was used to ascertain Parliament’s original intended meaning behind the creation of the Act. By taking into account the fact that it was created for the purpose of regulating the use of pleasure boats on inland waterways and allowing the British Waterways Board to make charges and confer upon them further powers, the court reached the conclusion as stated above, that Ravencroft’s interpretation cannot be correct.In this case, because the court had not been taken to any further material outside of the 1983 British Waterways Act, none were used. This brings into question whether the decisions made by courts regarding the intended meaning of statute should be made without taking into account aids to construction. In this current case it is argued that based on the literal rule the “main navigable channel” does not extend from bank to bank but is equivalent to the “thoroughfare” or deepest part of the river, and as such the appellant’s boat was not moored within it thus there was no power to remove the boat in the first place, to levy removal and return charges or license fees. Therefore if the court followed the literal approach instead the judgement made as a result could be very different. As a result, it can be said that courts possess the power to potentially change the meaning of statute law based on judges’ discretion and distort the separation of powers system, leading to a number of issues. Firstly, it may lead to the judiciary having too much power, allowing it to overrule the intended meaning of Parliament with their own interpretation. Furthermore, where aids to construction are not used, it is difficult to ascertain the intended meaning of Parliament if the context behind the creation of statutes is not referenced, i.e. Hansard. Finally, precedent played a key role in determining whether or not the Human Rights Act 1998 were indeed breached in this current case, specifically Art 1 of the First Protocol to the HRA in this case regarding the protection of property, as Canal and River Trust removed the boat belonging to Ravencroft from its mooring due to the fact that it did not have a pleasure boat license, placing the boat into storage. Here, Asplin J came to the judgement that because the owner of the boat is known, the vessel can be recovered upon payment of storage and removal charges, and bearing that in mind it is appropriate for CRT to take such steps as necessary in order to keep the waterways properly regulated for the benefit of the whole community. Thus a fair balance between the rights of the individual and the interests of the community has been maintained, and as such there was no infringement upon the rights of Ravencroft under the HRA 1998. This judgement was reached on the basis of the rules derived from Sporrong and Lonnroth v Sweden (1983) 5 EHRR 35 which state that interference, deprivation or control of an individual’s possessions will not violate Protocol 1 of Article 1 of the HRA 1998 if done in the public interest. The principle that “Controls on use of property are therefore subject to the fair balance test in the same way as deprivations of possessions” was set out in R (Countryside Alliance and Ors) v Attorney General and Anr 2007 UKHL 52, 2008 1 AC 719. In this case Lord Brown addressed Article 1 rights as follows. “The justification required for depriving someone of their possessions is merely that this be in the public interest. The state must establish a legitimate aim in the public interest and the deprivation involved must be proportionate to that aim. A fair balance must be struck between the demands of the general interest of the Community and the need to protect the individual’s property rights.” As a result, CRT’s actions were deemed lawful and appropriate in this case based on the precedent set by previous cases, leading to the dismissal of Ravenscroft’s appeal.


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