Private security guards removed from Thames riverside

In September 2020, the Environment Agency (EA) appointed the company District Enforcement (DE) to enforce visitor moorings on the Thames.

The private security company was contracted to police moorings, and issue penalties to anyone without the correct documentation.

District Enforcement also made a request for boaters to register with it when using temporary mooring sites, invoking a fine for those who had failed to register.

The company drafted signs, which a series of boating organisations complained were ‘aggressive and unwelcoming’ and ‘exceeds (available) powers significantly’. These signs read:

District Enforcement has the right to exercise a general lien upon any vessel and/or other property of the vessel owner, whilst in or on this site, until any money due to District Enforcement in respect of mooring fees, storage or other charges or otherwise shall be paid. Mooring/Storage Charges will continue to apply during this time. District Enforcement may exercise their lien at any time and any lien shall extend to cover the cost of recovering any sums due and for that purpose District Enforcement shall have the right to sell the goods by public auction or private treaty without notice to the owner.

Earlier, in 2019, a court in Reading struck out a claim by District Enforcement to evict boats from the river, after the company was contracted by Reading Borough Council to enforce mooring charges on the river.

After protest from boaters, in June 2020 the EA arrangement was modified, with a removal of the requirement to register with DE before mooring.

Now, thankfully, the Environment Agency contract is being withdrawn. Tomorrow (30 September) the Environment Agency contract with District Enforcement will end and the signs have been removed.

This episode shows the increased willingness of public bodies to contract private security companies for enforcement – and the heavy handed and profiteering conduct that results. May the cancelling of the DE contract be the end of it.