Ride operator faces legal rollercoaster

Roger Pearson reports on an illiterate ride operative's High Court battle against fairground giant Bob Wilson & Sons.

The country's oldest trade union, the Showman's Guild, is facing a High Court challenge from ride operator Barry Print, in a battle over allocation of fairground pitches.

In a writ issued on his behalf by Chelmsford firm Wortley Redmayne & Kershaw, Print claims he had established rights of tenure at three fairground sites in Witney, Abingdon and Banbury from about 1983, but that from October 1994 he was deprived of these rights by the conduct of high-profile fairground operators Bob Wilson & Sons.

Print claims that he has been deprived of income from the sites since October 1994 as a result. He says he was only allowed to operate pitches at the sites on the basis of an undated agreement, entered into in about 1980, in which he agreed to pay 40 per cent of his gross takings to Wilsons.

He claims that under the agreement he had to pay u200,000 because he had gained "an established right of tenure" without Wilsons' prior permission.

The writ says the sum demanded by Wilsons is an unfair "penalty" in the eyes of the law. It says that Print was illiterate and that he entered the agreement by influence arising from a lack of understanding and an indication that he had no choice but to sign.

It also claims Print was not aware the agreement would deprive him of the rights he enjoyed under the rules of the Showman's Guild and that he was not advised to obtain independent legal advice before signing the agreement.

After the problems in 1994, Print says he complained and appealed to the guild without success. Now he is seeking a declaration that in October 1995 he was entitled to established rights of tenure at Abingdon and Banbury fairs, and has been entitled to these since October 1994.

Furthermore, Print seeks an account and inquiry of the income from exploitation of his rights since October 1994, and an order requiring Wilsons to give him his established rights of tenure at Abingdon and Banbury and requiring the guild to recognise these rights.

He additionally seeks damages of up to u100,000.