Former St Albans Councillor guilty of illegal eviction
PUBLISHED: 06:37 23 December 2011
A FORMER district councillor was found guilty and fined over £12,000 yesterday for illegally evicting a man living in one of his five rented properties.
Sean Christopher Flynn (known as Chris), who was also a previous chairman of London Colney parish council, was found guilty of unlawfully depriving Guy Messenger of his occupation of 184A London Colney High Street.
Flynn denied knowing Mr Messenger was living in the property but prosecuting on behalf of St Albans district council, barrister Alex Williams said text messages and witnesses disproved that.
He recalled how Mr Messenger, when giving evidence in a previous four-day trial, claimed to have met Flynn and paid him rent directly a few times in the four years he had been occupying the property with Brian Ludford. All other times, he had paid his rent to Mr Ludford.
Mr Williams recounted how Mr Messenger had come home from work to find his possessions dumped outside. Later, he sought advice about the legality of the eviction through the Citizens Advice Bureau and the district council which led to the prosecution.
Flynn was described by the prosecution as a “bully” who had behaved like a “Victorian slum landlord” targeting people who “had little voice”.
Mr Williams said that Flynn’s public service work had made him confident that his respectability would be a shield against such claims.
Defence barrister, Robin Griffiths, said there was nothing in typed script to prove Mr Messenger was ever an occupier and that Flynn had gone to the property to help Mr Ludford move into another property he owned as a part of a house swap.
When he arrived he discovered Mr Messenger’s belongings and claimed he did not know whose they were or why they were there and so removed them from the property. Concerned about the discovery of a machete, he called the police, a fact the defence claimed was in Flynn’s favour.
Mr Griffiths said: “He must have been confident that what he was doing was right and that the police officers would support him because he called them to the scene. Nobody else called the police that day.”
Chairman of the bench, Frank Wheeler, rejected Mr Flynn’s claims and said he was certain he knew Mr Messenger was living there and that he had deprived him of his occupation of the property.
The first of two 999 calls of two made that day by Flynn was described by Mr Wheeler as an attempt to “mitigate any consequences that may follow” his actions.
In sentencing, Mr Wheeler said: “There was a process if you wanted Mr Messenger to go and as someone with several rented properties you ought to have known that.”
He told Flynn that the evidence given about his positive good character had been taken into account and his punishment would be a financial penalty.
His barrister outlined the financial cost Flynn had already endured because of the case and explained his financial restraints – his partner was not in work, his son attended a private school with fees of £12,000 a year and he had his own mortgage as well those of his rental properties
Mr Wheeler ordered Flynn to pay £12,465 in total, including £200 compensation to Mr Messenger, £11,450 of the costs incurred by the district council in prosecuting the case, a fine of £800 and a £15 victim surcharge.