Heavy court costs and fines rock the boat of illegal houseboat owner

Release Date: 07/02/2017

Judges have ended the legal voyage of a man who illegally moored his houseboat in Richmond and ordered him to pay thousands towards court costs on top of a £200 fine which he originally appealed against.

Christopher Akerman’s appeal was sunk in the High Court on Friday when the judges upheld his original conviction and the fines imposed by the Magistrates’ Court in February last year. The 39-year-old argued that he ignored Richmond Council’s warnings to move his boat because new bye-laws ‘breached his human rights’. Akerman must now pay the original £200 in fines upheld by Magistrates in relation to Richmond Council’s enforcement action plus £6,419 towards Richmond Council’s legal fees.

Akerman refused to move his vessel, ‘The Longwood Lady’, which he left moored to the Council-owned Ham Lands because he argued that the bye-laws breached his ‘right to respect his home’ and would ‘make him homeless’. Based on this argument he ignored joint enforcement action taken by the Council and Police on four occasions from March to June 2015. The Magistrates upheld the enforcement action taken and convicted him of the four offences but Akerman lodged an appeal at the High Court.

Richmond Council campaigned on behalf of residents and riverside communities to have greater powers to clampdown on unauthorised mooring. After four years of work the bye-laws were introduced in March 2015. The bye-laws mean that if the owner of a boat moors it to Council owned or managed land for more than a set period of time they are committing a criminal offence.

Richmond Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Cllr Pamela Fleming, said:

“Akerman must pay a substantial amount in fines and court costs which should act as a deterrent to others who think they can get away with this crime. Furthermore the result of this High Court Appeal underlines the fact that Richmond Council will not give up on pursuing the owners of illegally moored vessels through the courts – each and every one of them.

“We’re pleased to be able to conclude this matter and this prosecution has been the first real test of our bye-laws to fight unauthorised mooring. The bye-laws have been considered legally robust and we will not hesitate to call upon these powers should we need to take more action in the future.”

Updated: 7 February 2017