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High Court Throws Out Appeal Against River Thames Conviction

Boat-owner’s challenges 'relentless' – Environment Agency



Alistair Trotman's two houseboats moored illegally on the River Thames for which he was fined £800, losing a subsequent appeal against his conviction
Alistair Trotman's two houseboats moored illegally on the River Thames for which he was fined £800, losing a subsequent appeal against his conviction

A judge has rejected an appeal against conviction from a man fined for blocking part of the River Thames with his two barges.


The High Court dismissed all of Alistair Trotman’s arguments in relation to the original court verdict, labelling many of his challenges about the wording and validity of the Environment Agency’s case as “misconceived.”


In 2022, Trotman was fined £800 by Staines magistrates’ court for breaking navigation, safety and mooring byelaws. He’d rented out rooms on houseboats Rhythm of River and Kupe, moored in largely the same spot for 6 months from October 2018.


District judge Susan Cooper ruled in favour of the Thames harbour master’s evidence. She said the 25-metre-long boats “were likely to affect the navigation of other vessels” in a stretch of water narrowed by Trotman’s actions.  


Boats moored permanently without the consent of the landowner can only remain stationary on the non-tidal Thames for up to 24 hours.


The Environment Agency warned Trotman more than once to move the barges or face prosecution, including through an official notice.


But after he was fined, the 57-year-old, of Kingston-upon-Thames, contested the conviction and sentence in the High Court, a move the Environment Agency said was ‘a relentless and meritless challenge’ of byelaws governing boats on the River Thames.


Colin Chiverton, environment manager for the Thames at the Environment Agency, said of Trotman’s failure to accept guilt:

This appeal was Mr Trotman’s latest contempt for the rules, trying to avoid responsibility for two unsafe barges moored in a dangerous position on a busy river that caused nuisance for river users and residents alike. Mr Trotman has never accepted he was wrong, but I am very pleased the High Court rejected all of his arguments about our decision to prosecute.

Among the points dismissed by Mr Justice Sheldon, Trotman questioned the validity of the charges of illegal mooring and refusal to comply with an order to move the barges. He claimed the wording wasn’t specific enough around where and when the Environment Agency said he broke the law.


But Judge Sheldon responded, saying:

I do not accept Mr Trotman did not know of what he was being accused.

Trotman also believed the Environment Agency should have given him a fixed penalty notice before taking him to court. Trotman then disputed the extent of the Agency’s powers to compel him to move the barges. Again, the High Court dismissed these arguments.


Judge Sheldon confirmed the Environment Agency’s authority to prosecute Trotman for keeping the boats in the same location and failing to comply with the harbour master. He ruled most of Trotman’s claims against the Environment Agency and the law were “misconceived.”


The barge-owner believed the original costs of almost £21,000 against him were disproportionate, and questioned the right of the Environment Agency to claim them.

At the High Court on 16 April, the judge reduced the original costs against Trotman from £20,591.40 to £12,000, but then added the Environment Agency’s costs of £10,907.97 for handling the appeal, increasing the overall amount by £2,316.57.


Alistair Trotman’s fine of £800 for keeping the boats in place and failing to comply with the harbour master’s two notices to move the boats remains. Costs for the original case and the appeal total £22,907.97. He will still have to pay a victim surcharge of £80, set at the previous sentencing hearing.


The Environment Agency charged Trotman with 2 breaches of the Thames Navigation Licensing and General Byelaws 1993 in relation to mooring of the barges, and 2 breaches of the Thames Conservancy Act 1932 concerning his failure to comply with instructions from the Thames harbour master to move them.


The High Court’s dismissal of Alistair Trotman’s appeal against conviction and sentence comes shortly after the Environment Agency successfully brought civil trespass proceedings against the ten owners of other boats moored continuously on the River Thames at West Molesey for several years.

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