11/09/2012

The JP, the BBC trainee and the Unlawful Eviction

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
Interest £1972

Total £26,630.40
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.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

12 Comments

  1. Rentergirl

    I always love it when landlords pulling these stunts get their come-uppance. However: will she pay up? Also – when threatened by amagistrate, did the police buckle and assist the eviction, like they usually do (I can see they asked the ‘father/JP’ to leave)?

    Reply
  2. S

    She owns a house so I doubt she will have much choice in the matter.

    Reply
  3. DT

    160 x £160 is not £16,000.00

    Reply
    • NL

      My typo – was £100 per day. Corrected.

      Reply
  4. Jonathan

    At least the police were pro-active. I’ve had three cases in the last 2 weeks where the police have been called during an unlawful eviction(once by landlord and twice by the tenant)On all three occasions the police have asked the tenant to leave and, in two of the cases, have also taken keys from the tenant.

    It seems round here if the tenant calls the police they are met with the ” It’s a civil matter, mate, go and see a solicitor” response. Whereas if the landlord calls the police they side with him/her and ask the tenant to vacate.

    There’s a wider issue here about police training in my view

    Reply
    • NL

      Jonathan

      All very familiar! We have regular sessions of compaining about police approaches to unlawful eviction, not least here http://nearlylegal.co.uk/2010/07/illegal-eviction-and-the-police/

      That case, Naughton v Whittle and Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police. Manchester County Court 30/11/2009 (Legal Action July 2010), would be a handy case to wave at your local police, given that their usual (wrong) approach cost GMP £2500.

      In this case, it sounds like the police and the TRO were actually working together. A refreshing change.

      Reply
  5. Jonathan

    Thanks NL, fortunately we have an Actions -v-Police dept who are taking it further

    Reply
  6. AL

    I have always found the Police to be spectacularly unhelpful with unlawful eviction/landlord harassment cases with the old refrain “it’s a civil matter” being their stock reply.

    In my view it would be sensible for the Police to have one or two officers trained in housing law for cases such as this.

    Reply
  7. abdullah rehman

    farther throwing his weight around and is jp ! tut tut should be struck off always the poor suffer good judge sent out a strong mssage

    Reply
  8. Sam

    I agree if a tenant calls the police they get told is a civil matter or even worse arrested by the police. The police take the side of landlords despite tenants being legally in the right and the police and landlord in the wrong. The whole system is dodgy. Naughty v Whittle a classic example of what goes on in the real world and how tenancy agreements are not worth the paper they are written on. In my case the landlord actually used their key to enter the property go through my personal items and remove the tenancy agreement (I had a copy on file elsewhere) the landlord the daughter of a police officer then denied a tenancy agreement ever existed after black bagging and changing the locks the police are in cahoots with landlords most the time.

    Reply

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