The Tony Dunkley story

Published: Wednesday, 18 November 2020

TIME I think to tell the story of Tony Dunkley, left homeless and needing to share his plastic bowl for food with his dog, writes Pam Pickett.

This during lockdown and during the despicable CaRT years, CaRT beginning in July 2012, Tony's story in January 2014.

TonyDunkleyNot some itinerant boater

It should be noted at this point that Tony Dunkley is not some itinerant boater described to me by CaRT as 'a big bloke with a beard, wearing an oily boiler suit, a woolly hat and with a fag hanging out of his mouth'. He is a time served boater, a man of brilliant intellect; a stickler for the law fighting not just for himself but for all against an organisation that considers itself to be above the law.  (The photogrpah shows Tony with the small caravan he has been forced to live in.)

I will begin with the Section 8 received by Tony Dunkley and his subsequent visit to court in 2014. Met by CaRT's legal team waving a piece of paper under his nose he was advised to read this as 'we (the Trust) 'are going to take your boat off you' . (Tony Dunkley's licence had previously been revoked for failing to adhere to the Canal & River Trusts new 'Guidelines')

First things first. Tony Dunkley originally legally moored at Holme Lock.  With the introduction of the one in ten moorings to be reduced in  order to facilitate those marinas now springing up Tony then found a new mooring at Barton in Fabis, still on the Trent.

Disbelieved he had new mooring

As usual CaRT's enforcement officer disbelieved this and treated Tony Dunkley as a continuous cruiser. There is nothing in waterways law says we have to spend all of our time on our home mooring, we only need to have one.

(Incidentally my late husband and I were accused of breaking the Trusts new 'Guidelines' by cruising between Great Heywood and Stone, more than once during our summer break, yet we also had a home mooring!)

Now, given the seriousness of what I must say here, I received a 'tip off' that all may not be well with the Section 8 papers being received by boaters.  Tony Dunkley was advised of this, finding it to be correct when he noted that the information pack that advised him of the necessity to contact the court with information should he wish to put up a defence was missing.  This would have allowed the Canal & River Trust to virtually rubber stamp its action.

Court supplied missing document

Happily however the court furnished Tony Dunkley with the missing document.  Tony Dunkley then working together with the sadly late and great Nigel Moore was able to provide the court with his hand written defence.  This minutes before the time limit for presenting such evidence.

Fair I think to say a shock for the Trust!  The judge then gave Tony Dunkley', a Litigant in Person, three weeks to provide his evidence.  Again with the assistance of Nigel Moore evidence was duly presented to the court resulting in CaRT discontinuing the action.

Poor losers?

Poor losers?  If we cant get you one way well get you another perhaps'?  Tony was then shortly after threatened with legal action with regard to his commercial working boat Selby Michael for which he had permission to moor at Meadow Lane Wharf awaiting aggregate work for which an application was pending . (CaRT's 'The answer is no. What is the question' could come to mind). 

CaRT finally backed down on the threatened action and via myself issued an apology to Tony Dunkley.  What comes next is worrying.  With Selby Michael now moored by agreement at Hazleford, the aggregate job having been refused, thus no need for an offloading Wharf, Tony Dunkley received a call to say the boat had broken free of its mooring and in flood conditions was a major hazard to craft moored on the Dyke.

CaRT sent its tug Maid Marion to bring Selby Michael back to its mooring.  So far so good.  Selby Michael had taken on some water as it went on it's way in the Dyke.  This was pumped out and the boat returned to its then mooring on the visitor moorings on the Hazleford Island to which it had been previously moved to by the Trust.


Tony Dunkley then found Selby Michael grounded', heavily bow down' stern up with the Trent now back at normal levels. Photographic evidence in relation to the boat having previously broken free of its mooring, show no damage to ropes, they hadn't been cut but in accordance with the photographs had to have been untied from within the workboat and left dangling in the water.  The photographs by the way were independently taken, prior I understand to Tony Dunkley's visit to check on his workboat

Strange indeed that Selby Michael, with the Trust claiming vandalism, then sank, given there is no public access to the island, with entry only by waterways key and with entry to the boat only by ladder that would have been difficult, or perhaps more feasibly by a boat alongside?

Failed in its duty

At this point I ask if in the very least the Trust failed in its duty to correctly moor Selby Michael?  If it is in fact in the very least guilty of negligence?  Or is it that lightning has struck twice and Tony Dunkley notably seen as a thorn in the side of the Trust has coincidentally lost not one, but two boats?

In conclusion, looking back here, Tony Dunkley being threatened with regard to his workboat in September 2014 following the failed court case in June 2014 caused a bit of a stir for the Trust.  If memory serves me right, and it more usually does, for one of its enforcement officers, too.  Could the jury is out be fair comment here I wonder?