Boater cleared of assault on rowing marshall

March 2018 - A boater labelled a ‘Hammer-Wielding Bird Lover’ by the media has been cleared of an alleged assault after a a group of rowing marshalls claimed he had attacked them.

The National Bargee Travellers Association reports that James Deane, a disabled Cambridge boat dweller who says he was attacked by a group of rowing marshals and then arrested for alleged assault on one of them, was found not guilty of all charges at Huntingdon Magistrates court.

The District Judge declared that Mr Deane had acted lawfully and with ‘less than reasonable force’ to defend himself and his houseboat from the attack.

NBTA says that the Judge agreed that the marshals had acted unlawfully and without authority, effectively taking the law into their own hands by seizing the man’s boat and falsely claiming that the boat dweller was navigating in the authorised area of the race on 3rd December 2016.

It says: “Rowing Marshal Tony Nelder appears to have coerced the police into arresting Mr Deane and then instigated a slanderous media campaign against him. Nelder, a former policeman, is alleged to have dragged James Deane off his boat.

“The hammer was shown to have only been used as a barrier to prevent further attack by the marshals and at no point came into contact with anyone, although the marshals and the media implied that it had been used as a weapon.”

Following the incident James Deane faced widespread national condemnation at the hands of the media, who labelled him a 'hammer wielding bird lover', as well as abuse from local boaters directly associated with rowing clubs.

NBTA says Mr Deane was, in fact, performing an important public service by clearing the river of bicycles and shopping trolleys that had been thrown in at the Tesco footbridge and taking them to the water point at the entrance to Stourbridge Common.

George Wills who defended James Deane in court, argued that the President of the City of Cambridge Rowing Club, had overall responsibility for ensuring accurate notification of the race location, which was shown on the Cam Conservancy website as taking place between Chesterton footbridge (Green Dragon) and Baits Bite lock, at least 300m away from where the his client was navigating.

Tony Nelder, the race marshall at the centre of the incident, eventually accepted that the man he allegedly attacked was in fact navigating completely lawfully in an area outside of the race location advertised on the river authority's website, according to the NBTA. The website is the only method of notifying other river users of race locations.

The NBTA says Bargee Travellers feel that they are targeted by the rowing community because they act as custodians of the river, including documenting: deaths and injuries sustained by swans and cygnets during races; rowers causing criminal damage by colliding with moored houseboats; overcrowding caused by the sheer number of rowers; and the large number of apparently unlicensed rowing boats.

It says: “The judgement represents a huge victory for the Bargee Traveller community who have historically been under attack by the rowing community, who use the narrow, winding river for high-speed racing which erodes river banks and disturbs nesting birds.

“Rowing races and training cause anxiety and stress to Bargee Travellers because of noise pollution from headsets and megaphones early in the morning, late at night and at weekends,and also due to the contemptuous attitudes and racist abuse towards Bargee Travellers who are often called ‘gypos’ or ‘pikeys’ by the rowers, marshals and rowing coaches. In addition rowers cause criminal damage to houseboats by continually crashing into them.”

“Bargee Travellers clean up the mess rowers and rowing races leave behind. This includes: the retrieval and burial of dead cygnets killed by rowers’ blades every May during Bumps and other race events; collecting the mountains of rubbish and ripped up willow branches left by spectators along the river banks. Most local residents appreciate the voluntary work undertaken by the Bargee Travellers of the River Cam and feel that the River is their home, not a playground for rowers.”

A 40 minute long video of the Cam incident has been posted on YouTube and can be found below:

Photos: (1st) A still from the video filmed during the confrontation.

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