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Unlawful eviction – does the punishment fit the crime?

142px-Standard_Crowbar_BlackI was interested to read this report from the Oxford local authority website (which I found via the excellent Garden Chambers Housing Law Bulletin).

This is about a recent prosecution of Sony Darshan regarding his attempt to unlawfully evict his tenant Ms Cable and her family on 29 June 2013 with his two sons.

This is what happened:

Mr Darshan turned up with a crowbar at his tenant’s home … on 29 June 2013 with his two sons.

They pushed past Ms Cable, who was alone with her nine week old son, and started to remove the front door lock, telling Ms Cable that she must leave her home immediately as Mr Darshan wanted his house back.

The tenant called 999 and police officers stopped the eviction and advised the tenant to inform the Tenancy Relations Officer at Oxford City Council. The matter was investigated and Mr Darshan was taken to court.

For this he received a fine of £1,000, reduced to £650 for a timely guilty plea, plus costs of £1,205 and a £65 victim surcharge.  So thats a total of £1,920.

Well done the Oxford TRO team of course for actually getting a conviction, but that does not seem to be much of a punishment for what must have been a terrifying experience for the tenant.

For example compared with a recent ‘beds in sheds’  case where the landlord was fined £24,000.  Surely  three men going in with a crowbar to forcibly evict a young mother with her baby is comparable to renting out property in a shoddy condition?

I’m also not convinced that a punishment of under £2K if you get caught is much of a deterrent to criminal landlords.  What do you think?



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6 Responses to Unlawful eviction – does the punishment fit the crime?

  1. Along with staff cuts, the reliability of witnesses and the amount of incidents of this kind this is the other reason so few prosecutions are taken. Who can forgive any council prosecution officers for saying “What’s the point?”

    Instead you put our efforts into different ways to penalise the landlord.

    As a working TRO of 24 years I do as few criminal prosecutions as possible because the fine’s, even in cases like Darshan are pathetic.

    I have never had a case in court less than 18 months after the offence and often 2 years+

    I once prosecuted a landlord who pulled a gun on a woman and her three kids, he was fined £400 and the council’s costs in the case were refused.

    The Ministry of Justice has recently amended the penalty rules and now a court can take into account a landlord’s assets when considering the fine. We will have to wait and see if this has any effect in these cases.

    As for me, as far as possible I will stick to using this phone number 0800 788887, it’s the HMRC tax dodger line. There’s always more than one way to skin a cat.

  2. In at least two previous cases Oxford was successful in obtaining prison sentences for PEA offences. If memory serves correct they were also instrumental in convincing the police to arrest a landlord at Gatwick just as he was about to leave the country.

    In my previous TRO role my experience was that most cases were ready to come to court in less than a year, but as Ben knows each case will depend on the availability of witnesses and evidence, tactics and attempts by the defence to delay or otherwise deter prosecution – and any internal delays and priorities within Council departments.

    The fact of a prosecution with press reporting in the public domain can be very influential. Civil actions are rarely reported, but the fact of prosecution can also assist any civil case. Penalties in each may also be taken into account in respect of the other.

    Ben cites the fines given for Beds in Sheds cases. Those issues have become very high profile with Ministerial involvement and also the maximum penalties are prescribed in the HA 2004 and for which, as new offences, Tribunals and Courts have started with considering penalties at the higher rather than the lower end. Rent Repayment Order penalties for tenants started at the higher end but following higher Tribunal decisions have now come down.

    Beds in Sheds is at the very worst end of HMO/Immigration offences and for that reason continue to attract severe penalties.

  3. On the face of it, it does seem very lenient but without knowing the full facts, it seems daft to judge.

    As Colin highlights, comparing it to the fines for beds in sheds is not comparing like for like. (And it wasn’t Ben making the comparison, it was Tessa).

    And just in case any naughty landlords are thinking 2 grand to throw a tenant out is money well spent;

    http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2013/04/of-statutory-defences-and-bottles-of-urine/

    Jay Allen was sentenced to 9 months custodial sentence and costs of £5,755. Razwan Mohammed sentenced to 6 months prison, suspended, and a curfew and tag.

    • In my experience on the legal aid side – fro an illegal eviction damages, depending on the method, length and family makeup can be high. Maybe not as high as Beds in Shed but £50 a night is a minimum sort of tariff we look at. Not including special damages etc.

      so while not as high as BIS any hit to immoral landlords needs and should be done.

  4. The CLG and MoJ often cite the fact that the lack of prosecutions indicates that the problems are not widespread. Prosecutions in the London area in 2008 were (5) 2009,(10) of which two resulted in immediate prison, and 2010,(8) Given the incidents that Ben reports, notwithstanding that a penalty might be low, a prosecution could be helpful and in the public interest.

  5. In addition to the illegal eviction side of things, from the description, it seems to me that the action of these ‘hard men’ could have warranted an arrest for assault.
    What do you think?




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About the post author:

Tessa Shepperson

Tessa is a lawyer specialising in residential landlord and tenant law. She runs the Landlord Law website (now in its 12th year) and is a director of Easy Law Training Ltd and Your Law Store. Tessa also sits on the Property Redress Scheme Council. When not working she enjoys reading, cooking and messing around on the computer. You can also find her on Google



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