This essay is focused towards discussing the case of Ravenscroft
v Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch). The essay is divided into
two main parts. The first part aims to develop a case brief of Ravenscroft v
Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch) and the second part aims to
critically discuss the role of statutory interpretation in the High Court’s
judgement in Ravenscroft v Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch).
Moreover, this essay will also shed light on approach to statutory interpretation
the court employed and whether any aids to construction were used including the
role if any potentially did precedent play in the judgement.
Case Brief of Ravenscroft v Canal
and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch)
Name of the Parties: Mr Leigh
Ravenscroft (Claimant) and Canal and River Trust (Defendant)
Citation: 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch)
Court: The High Court of Justice Chancery Division
Judges: The Hon Mrs Justice Asplin DBE
Facts: In this case, the dispute is between
Mr Leigh Ravenscroft and Canal & River Trust. Mr Leigh Ravenscroft is the
owner of a boat named “The Three Wise Monkeys” while Canal & River
Trust, On 27 January 2015, removed the boat of Mr Leigh Ravenscroft “The
Three Wise Monkeys” from its mooring on the River Trent at Farndon
Ferry, Newark, Nottinghamshire as well as put the board in their storage at
Chester. However, it was returned to Mr Leigh Ravenscroft on the payment of
£8,176 on May 6, 2015.
Procedural History: None
Statutory Provision: The main issue is the
genuine construction of the phrase “main navigable channel” in section 4 of the
British Waterways Act 1971.Neither Mr
Moore nor Mr Stoner took me to the principles of statutory construction in
their oral submissions, although Mr Stoner did refer to the principle in Pepper
Legal Issue: The main issue
which is at the heart of this matter is the true construction of the phrase
“main navigable channel” in section 4 of the 1971 Act as amended. If,
as Mr Ravenscroft contends it does not extend from bank to bank but is
equivalent to the “fairway” or “thoroughfare”
of the River Trent, the “Three Wise Monkeys” was not moored
within it and there was no power to remove his boat in the first place, to levy
either the removal and storage charges or the sum in respect of arrears of
licence fee. If the “main navigable channel” extends to the
full width of the main river and only excludes tributaries, streams and
backwaters, as CRT contends, although Mr Ravenscroft accepts that the
“Three Wise Monkeys” should have had a pleasure boat certificate, he
says that the steps which were taken were disproportionate, unnecessary and
contrary to Article 1 of Protocol 1 of Human Rights Act 1998. Further, and in
any event, Mr Ravenscroft contends that the CRT took the “Three Wise
Monkeys” and used it unlawfully to distrain for licence fees.
Obiter Dicta: By way of
background, I was taken to Transport Act 1962 which created four public
authorities including CRT’s predecessor, the BWB. Section 10 provides that it
is the duty of the BWB in the exercise of its powers under the Act, “to
provide to such extent as they may think expedient – (a) services and
facilities on the inland waterways owned or managed by them . . . and to have
due regard to efficiency, economy and safety of operation as respects the services
and facilities provided by them”. Further, by section 43(3), the CRT
and the BWB before it, was empowered to “demand, take and recover . . .
such charges for their services and facilities, and to make the use of those
services and facilities subject to such terms and conditions, as they think fit”.
Role of Statutory Interpretation
in the High Court’s Judgement in this Case
Canal and River Trust a non-profit-making organisation which was
launched on July 12, 2012, taking the
guardianship of British Waterways canals, rivers reservoirs and docks in
England and Wales. However, these waterways are free to access and open to all,
every day of the year. In contrast, the term “precedent” refers to an
earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide to be
considered in subsequent similar circumstances. For instance, a precedent case
is used for explaining the current on-going case or for supporting the idea or
the context of the scenario. In simpler words, it can be said that a precedent
is on a general authority or law in a legal
system which is a rule that was
established in the past legal cases which are either binding on a persuasive
for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases along the facts or
issues that are the same1.
Literal Rule: The literal
rule is utilised for the interpretation of statues while interpreting a statute, the courts often implement the literal rule initially before the
implementation of any other interpretation rule as the words in a statue are
provided with its plain, literal meaning, and ordinary in the literal rule.
Golden Rule: The golden
rule is a basic principle that must be followed always in order to ensure the
success in particular or general activity2.
Apart from that, it is a biblical rule of ‘do as you would be done by’.
Mischief Approach: The mischief
rule is a principle that is utilised for interpreting a statue. However, this
principle is often used by the courts for determining the legislation
intentions. On the other hand, the main focus of this principle is on
determining the defect and mischief within a statue as well as applies a remedy
for the similar3.
Purposive Rule: The purposive
approach is often referred as purposive construction, purposivism, modern principle, purposive interpretation in
construction that is an approach towards statutory as well as the
constitutional interpretation under which common law courts interpret an
The Royal Court of Justice utilised purposive rule as it
makes sense to look at the whole purpose of the act, gives effect to
parliaments intentions, allows judges to use their common sense, it is also
sensible to use external aids like Hansard and allows the judges to consider
social and technological changes. In fact, conditions as to certificates and
licences are contained in the 1995 Act at section 17. It is relevant for these
purposes to note that by section 17 a “relevant consent” which
is defined to include a pleasure boat licence may be refused in respect of
vessels unless three conditions are met. Such as the vessel complies with the
applicable standards, the vessel is insured and evidence of the policy is
produced and that there is a mooring where the vessel can be lawfully kept or
the vessel will be used bona fide for navigation and will not remain
continuously in one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is
reasonable in the circumstances.
Mr Moore also took me to the Trent Navigation Act 1906 and
to section 46(5) which contained an obligation on “the Company” to
dredge the River Trent between specific points “so as to provide and
maintain a channel of a minimum depth of five feet and of a minimum width of
sixty feet at the bottom” and to ‘keep such channel clear and free
from obstruction . . . which might interfere with or obstruct the navigation”4.
In fact, by section 34 of the Trent Navigation Act 1858, the
“Company” defined as the “Company of Proprietors of the River
Trent Navigation”, the “Navigation” being defined as
“the River Trent from Wilden Ferry in the Counties of Derby and
Leicester, . . . to Gainsborough … and includes the Canal and Side Cuts
constructed …”, was required to:
“cleanse, scour, deepen, enlarge, straighten, contract, improve
and in a good and navigable State and Condition keep, preserve, and maintain by
all necessary and proper works, Ways and Means, the Navigation, so as to enable
Vessels usually navigating thereon to carry a Burthen of Forty Tons at least in
The extent of the River Trent to which section 4 of the 1971 Act
applies was extended by virtue of section 36(2) British Waterways Act 1974 to
“The Trent Navigation from Shardlow towards Meadow Land Lock
tail in Nottingham through the Beeston Canal as well as the Nottingham Canal
part along the river Soar branch including the river Trent’s junction with
Nottingham Canal towards Beeston Weir”5.
As Lord Steyn held in R (Quintavalle) v Secretary of State for
Health 2003 2 AC 687, 700: The pendulum has swung to the purposive
methods of construction. Thus, this change would not start through the teleological approach of jurisprudence of
European Community and the impact of European legal culture generally, however,
it has been accelerated European ideas that include
a classic early statement of the purposive approach by Lord Blackburn in River
Wear Comrs v Adamson (1877) 2 App Cas 743,
Eventually, the shift nowadays towards the purposive interpretation is obvious.
Moreover, the qualification is liberality degree which is affected by the
context such as social welfare legislation including the tax statutes that might have somewhat approached in
a different way7.
50 Term “context” reflects the context of legislation as
well as the context of a policy that is
shown in the admissible material like the reports by Law Commission, explanatory
notes accompanying legislation and Hansard in certain cases. Courts will not
speculate as to Parliament’s purpose, though they may infer it from (for
example) the indications provided in the legislation itself. In this particular
case, we have not been taken to any material outside the 1993 Act8.
Section 43(8) provides that:
“The facilities including the services towards the subsection
(3) of this section involve in the British Waterways Board case regarding the
use of an inland waterway that is managed
or owned by them through any of the boat or ship”9.
the case of Ravenscroft v Canal and River Trust 2017 EWHC 1874 (Ch) and
developing the case brief along the critical discussion regarding the
interpretation method of statutory, it can be concluded that the High Court of
Justice Chancery Division under the supervision of the Hon Mrs Justice Asplin
DBE held the case appropriately and utilised the most effective and essential
method “Purposive Rule” for the interpretation of the statutory relevant
to the case of Ravenscroft v Canal and River Trust which in result drawn a
logical decision and justice for both the parties according to the law along
the supporting cases and legislations.
Etzioni, Amitai. New Golden Rule. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
Forbes, Urquhart Atwell, and W. H. R. Ashford. Our waterways: a
history of inland navigation considered as a branch of water conservancy. J.
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen M. “The possessive logic of
patriarchal white sovereignty: The High Court and the Yorta Yorta
decision.” Borderlands e-journal 3.2 (2004).
Munday, Roderick. “Interpretation of Legislation in England:
The Expanding Quest for Parliamentary Intention.” Rabels Zeitschrift fuer auslaendisches und internationales Privatrecht 75.4 (2011): 764-786.
Nelson, Caleb. Statutory Interpretation. Foundation Press
Pepper v. Hart, 1993 A.C. 593 (1993).
Purdom, Jr, P.W. and Brown, C.A., 1985. The pure literal rule and
polynomial average time. SIAM Journal of
Computing, 14(4), pp.943-953.
R v. Secretary of State for Health ex p. Imperial Tobacco, 2000
E.C.R. 1 (2000).
River Wear Case, 2 App. 743 (1877).
Schwartz, Bernard. An introduction to American administrative law.
Stephens, S. R., et al. “Towards the characterisation of heavy
metals in dredged canal sediments and an appreciation of ‘availability’: two
examples from the UK.” Environmental Pollution 113.3 (2001): 395-401.
Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States. Vol. 2. Little, Brown,
Moreton-Robinson, Aileen M. “The possessive logic of patriarchal white
sovereignty: The High Court and the Yorta Yorta decision.” Borderlands
e-journal 3.2 (2004).
Amitai. New Golden Rule. HarperCollins Publishers, 1996.
3 Nelson, Caleb.
Statutory Interpretation. Foundation Press Thomson/West, 2011.
Urquhart Atwell, and W. H. R. Ashford. Our waterways: a history of inland
navigation considered as a branch of water conservancy. J. Murray, 1906.
5 Stephens, S.
R., et al. “Towards the characterisation of heavy metals in dredged canal
sediments and an appreciation of ‘availability’: two examples from the
UK.” Environmental Pollution 113.3 (2001): 395-401.
6 River Wear
Case, 2 App. 743 (1877).
Roderick. “Interpretation of Legislation in England: The Expanding Quest
for Parliamentary Intention.” Rabels Zeitschrift fuer auslaendisches und
Internationales Privatrecht 75.4 (2011): 764-786.
8 R v. Secretary
of State for Health ex p. Imperial Tobacco, 2000 E.C.R. 1 (2000).