The Environment Agency has reported a big increase in threatening behaviour towards its staff on the river. And it has warned that police will be called when necessary.

In a briefing note seen by River Thames News and headed Customer Hostility towards Staff ,the agency says: " Unfortunately there has been an unusually high number of reports of threatening behaviour, eight in July alone. We know there have been other incidents which have not been reported.

"We are committed to providing an excellent level of customer care but we will not tolerate aggression or abuse towards our staff."

The report says that in most cases the behaviour is in response to reasonable requests from lock-keepers or other waterways staff.

These include requests to tie up craft correctly, turn off radios or engines, clean up after their dogs on the lock-side, enter the lock as requested or move when obstructing a layby.

It reveals that police have had to be called on a number of occasions to boaters some of whom were drunk.

And it outlines incidents at this year's Henley Festival "when intoxicated boaters refused to
to comply either with the Harbourmaster's Notice for the event or requests and instructions from the patrolling officers afloat. This raised considerable risks for other boaters present."

It states: "Our staff have the right to work in a safe environment".

The EA says warnings are issued to nearby lockkeepers as a precaution when a customer is behaving aggressively. "In some cases we may also consider it necessary to send an urgent written message to all locks if we know an individual to be aggressive and travelling some distance on the river. We may find it necessary to call the police. "

The agency sends a warning letter to the owners of craft where necessary and is also asking boating organisations along the Thames to suggest ways of helping "arrest the decline in behaviour on the river and at the lock-side"

October 21st 2015

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