An unlawful eviction case with some unusual dramatis personae.
Rebecca Claire Webb v Samina Amreen Birmingham County Court 31 August 2012 [Unreported elsewhere]
Ms Webb was the assured shorthold tenant of Ms Amreen, for a 6 month term from September 2007 then a statutory periodic. A deposit of £540 had been paid, but was not protected. Ms Webb lived at the property with two children.
Over a period leading up to 23 June 2008, Ms Amreen conducted a campaign of harassment intended to drive Ms Webb from the property. This followed a gap of a month in housing benefit payments. There were texts threatening to ‘turn up with the bailiffs’ and repeated attendances at the property. Ms Amreen was warned by the Council’s Tenancy Relations officer about her conduct but ignored this.
Matters culminated in June when Ms Webb found Ms Amreen trying to climb in through a back window to the property. Ms Amreen told Ms Webb she had to go as it was her house and that she would move in with Ms Webb and live there if Ms Webb didn’t go. Ms Webb called the police and the TRO as Ms Amreen had said she would return the next day. On 23 June 2008, Ms Amreen arrived with a number of family members, including her father, Raja Amin, who was a Magistrate. The police and the TRO also arrived.
In the ensuing events, Ms Amreen threatened to break the windows, tried to enter the property, threatened Ms Webb and was rude to police officers. Mr Amin threaten the police officers with publicity if they arrested him as he was a magistrate (Ms Amreen worked for the BBC and was an aspiring presenter). He refused to leave the property when asked by the police, and when warned he would be arrested told the police it would be on TV that they had arrested a magistrate for being at his own house.
At 6 in the evening, under this pressure, Ms Webb moved out with the belongings she could manage to take. Her children stayed with family members and Ms Webb sofa surfed until November 2008 when they were given temporary accommodation.
Birmingham CC prosecuted Ms Amreen under the Protection from Eviction Act. In December 2009 she was convicted on four counts in Coventry Crown Court, reduced to three counts on appeal in September 2011.
Ms Webb’s brought a claim for unlawful eviction and harassment. Initially Ms Amreen was represented and filed a defence and counterclaim. This was struck out for non-compliance with unless orders. The hearing for assessment of damages was heard before HHJ Robert Owen QC at Birmingham County Court. Ms Amreen did not attend.
General damages of £16,000 (160 days at £100 per day)
Aggravated damages of £3500
Exemplary damages of £2500
Special damages of £498.40
Penalty of 3 times deposit and return of deposit under s.214 Housing Act 2004 £2160
Costs to Ms Webb
I don’t know on what basis exemplary damages were assessed but will try to find out. I also don’t know whether Mr Amin remains a JP, but in the light of the recent Judicial blogging guidance about not identifying oneself as a judicial office holder online, his actions have a certain resonance.
Thanks to Saeed Ashiq of Community Law Partnership, who acted for Ms Webb, for the note of the case.