Many readers have been shocked by the case of Michael Billings, the landlord who regularly flouts heath and safety regulations and who was jailed on 7 May. The sentence related to the near death of teenage tenant Ms Skalli from 80pc burns after she was trapped in her flat, and was rescued, just in time, by fire fighters.
Now it seems that landlords committing these offences are able to get their sentances reduced by making ‘voluntary payouts’ to victims. Billings has now had his sentence cut from 2 1/2 years to 21 months after paying £20,000 to Ms Skalli. The local EDP newspaper reports the Judge as saying
“I did not make a compensation order as, due to the complexity of the case, it would be more appropraite to seek compensation through the civil courts.
But I also heard that she was in some difficulty and may appreciate a without prejudice payment in the meantime.
Payment has been satisfactorily made and that is a tangible demonstration of remorse which I should take into account”
Ms Skalli had previously said that she would prefer to see Billings serve his full term than receive payment from him. However, the EDP reports that ‘given the severity of her condition, she and her family felt that they could not refuse the payment‘.
A few thoughts come to mind. Presumably Ms Skalli is going to bring a claim for personal injury against Billings. Will this payment be credited? (Ie is it something he would have had to pay anyway?). The Judge described the payment as ‘without prejudice’ but it is going to be difficult to find a Judge in any PI claim who will not be aware of it. And what does it say for justice if landlords are able to buy their way out of prison in this way?
What do you think?