Monday, 26 July 2021

'Attention Seeker' fined after Festival chaos

A MAN has been ordered to pay more than £4,500 after speeding in a boat on the Thames during last year?s Henley Festival

A MAN has been ordered to pay more than £4,500 after speeding in a boat on the Thames during last year?s Henley Festival.

Malcolm Howell, 29, drove Attention Seeker at high speed in the early hours of Sunday, July 13, creating a wash that causing moored boats to lift, rock and violently roll from side to side.

The contents of boat cabins were sent crashing to the floor, waking sleeping occupants, and some vessels were ripped from their moorings. The damage ran into thousands of pounds.

One boater called the incident ?terrifying? and another said Howell?s antics were ?one of the most irresponsible skippering manoeuvres I have ever seen?.

Howell, of no fixed abode, pleaded guilty to failing to navigate his boat at a safe speed and with due care and caution when he appeared at Oxford Magistrates? Court on Monday. He was fined £400 and ordered to pay costs of £3,515, compensation of £612 and a victim surcharge of £40.

Witnesses described how the incident started when Howell demanded that festival security officers should order him a water taxi to take him to his boat as it was moored to a boom in the middle of the river and could not be boarded from the bank.

On being told that the water taxi service was no longer running, Howell became verbally abusive, swearing at the officers and members of the public.

His companion then decided to swim the boat and retrieve one of its mooring lines which they used to pull the boat closer to the bank, enabling Howell to get on board.

Once on board, he started the engine and immediately set off at high speed, careering first into the boom in the river and then racing downstream in the dark without the boat?s navigation lights on, presenting a significant hazard to any other traffic on the river.

The powerful wash generated by Attention Seeker resulted in many of the other boats filled with people being ?thrown all over the place?, according to one witness.

Another said the wash was so violent that it took 15 minutes for the river to calm down.

Nick McKie-Smith, waterways operations manager for the Environment Agency, said: ?As the navigation authority for the non-tidal Thames, we?re very keen on people using their boats to travel to events such as the Henley Festival.

?We love to see the river filled with people enjoying everything that this fabulous waterway has to offer but we expect all river users to behave with consideration for others and to comply with the rules that are there to prevent situations that could see damage to property and harm to people, including navigating their boat no faster than 8km or five miles per hour, basically at no more than a brisk walking pace.

?We do receive a small but steady stream of complaints about inappropriate behaviour on the Thames and would always encourage people to report it to us.

?We?re very grateful to everyone who helped us bring Mr Howell to book.?

Howell was prosecuted under byelaw 26 of the Thames Navigation Licensing and General Byelaws 1993.

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