Excessive wash from a reckless boater caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to other vessels on the Thames

A reckless boater is to pay £4,567 after causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to other vessels along the Thames during last year’s Henley Festival.

Malcolm Howell created excessive wash while speeding down the river, causing moored boats to lift, rock and violently roll from side to side, sending cabin contents crashing to the floor and ripping some vessels from their moorings.

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The 29-year-old pleaded guilty to failing to navigate his boat at a safe speed and with due care and caution 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, totalling £4,567.

One victim of Mr Howell’s actions described the incident in the early hours of 13 July 2014 as “terrifying”, while another labelled his antics as “one of the most irresponsible skippering manoeuvres I have ever seen”.

Witnesses described how the incident started with Mr Howell demanding that festival security officers 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, Mr Howell became verbally abusive, swearing at the security officers and members of the public.

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

Mr Howell then 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 the rapid movement of Attention Seeker through the water resulted in many of the other boats moored along the Thames being “thrown all over the place” according to one witness.

While another stated that the wash was so violent it took 15 minutes for the river to calm down.

Waterways operations manager Nick McKie-Smith 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 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 5mph – basically at no more than a brisk walking pace.”

As Environment Agency officers were not present at the incident, Mr Howell’s successful prosecution relied on witnesses making formal statements that could be used in court, and providing evidence such as photos or footage.

“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,” continued Nick McKie-Smith.

“We respond to and investigate as many reports as we can, but unless people are prepared to make formal statements, ideally backed up with evidence, then taking it further can be difficult. So we’re very grateful to everyone who has helped us bring Mr Howell to book on this occasion.”