Four people guilty of a total of 28 charges of conspiring to unlawfully evict and harassing tenants in Cliftonville’s Athelstan Road have been jailed.
In a case prosecuted by Thanet District Council, Judge Rupert Lowe, sitting at Canterbury Crown Court, passed sentence on Monday 10 October, on the four defendants who threatened, harassed and attacked tenants. In one case, a tenant was doused in petrol and punched causing the loss of several teeth.
The main defendant, Sohila Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was given 14 custodial sentences ranging from six to 12 months, some of which were concurrent and some consecutive. This culminated in a total sentence of five years’ imprisonment.
Thanet District Council brought what is believed to be the largest ever prosecution of its type, for offences under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, after investigating a series of related allegations of criminal activity taking place in a building containing 26 flats.
Tenants of the Athelstan Road property were routinely harassed, threatened and unlawfully evicted without notice; locks were changed and some tenants’ belongings removed or thrown onto the street. Electrical supplies were regularly cut off.
The allegations shared with council officers were extremely serious in nature. The prosecution was brought to achieve justice for some of the most vulnerable residents in the community and to deter others from committing similar acts.
Of the other three defendants in the case, Pedram Tamiz, also of Flint Lane, Lenham, was given seven custodial sentences ranging from five to 11 months, some of which were concurrent and some consecutive, culminating in a total sentence of three years and four months’ imprisonment.
Adam McChesney, of Gloucester Avenue, Margate, was subject to five custodial sentences ranging from six to eight months, some of which were concurrent and some consecutive. This culminated in a total sentence of one year and eight months’ imprisonment. Mr McChesney’s total sentence was suspended for 24 months by Judge Lowe, who further ordered that he must carry out 250 hours of unpaid work.
Kasem El Darrat, of Athelstan Road, Margate ,was sentenced to a 12-month community order, and must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and attend 15 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days.
In July 2022, the four were found guilty by a jury at Canterbury Crown Court of a total of 28 offences including conspiring to unlawfully evict a tenant, conspiring to burgle and conspiring to interfere with, and directly interfering with, the peace or comfort of a residential occupier.
The council also applied to the court for compensation for the victims.
Judge Lowe agreed to the applications, saying: “These are genuine victims who have suffered terror, shock and distress, the loss of property, and in one case serious injury. I therefore believe compensation orders are appropriate.”
Ten compensation orders were made totalling £30,500, which must be paid by Sohila Tamiz, Pedram Tamiz and Adam McChesney in varying proportions.
Cllr Ash Ashbee, Leader of Thanet District Council, said “The sentences that the judge handed down today reflect the severity of the crimes committed by these four individuals.
“This was a landmark prosecution for us, and one of the largest ever brought for this kind of criminal activity in England. This outcome sends out a strong message to other landlords and agents in the district that we will not hesitate to prosecute you if you unlawfully evict or harass your tenants.
“I would like to thank the council’s Private Sector Housing Team which worked tirelessly on this case for over three years and was determined to get justice for the victims.”
Applications for Criminal Behaviour Orders were also made by the council. The court agreed to orders against both Sohila Tamiz and Pedram Tamiz. The orders, which are for an indefinite period of time, unless subject to a further order, ban them from engaging in letting agency or property management work, and from acting as a residential landlord in England. Neither party is permitted to enter Athelstan Road or Hadlow Drive, Margate for any purpose.
Judge Lowe also ordered Sohila Tamiz, Pedram Tamiz and Adam McChesney, in varying proportions, to pay prosecution costs of £200,000. Sohila Tamiz must pay £125,000 within 18 months; Pedram Tamiz must pay £62,500 within 18 months, and Adam McChesney must pay £12,500 within 36 months. All four guilty parties must also pay a statutory surcharge.