Four people guilty of a total of 28 charges of conspiracy to unlawfully evict and harass tenants of Athelstan Road in Cliftonville have been jailed.
In a case being pursued by Thanet District Council, Judge Rupert Lowe, sitting at Canterbury Crown Court, handed down a sentence on Monday (October 10) against the four defendants who threatened, harassed and assaulted tenants. In one case, a tenant was doused with gasoline and punched which knocked out several teeth.
The main defendant, Sohila Tamiz, of Flint Lane, Lenham, was given 14 custodial sentences ranging from six to 12 months, some concurrent and some consecutive. This resulted in a total sentence of five years imprisonment.
Thanet District Council has brought what is believed to be the biggest prosecution of its kind, for offenses under the Protection Against Eviction Act 1977, after investigating a series of related allegations of criminal activity taking place in a building containing 26 apartments.
Tenants of the Athelstan Road property were regularly harassed, threatened and unlawfully evicted without notice; the locks were changed and the personal belongings of some tenants removed or thrown into the street. The power supply was regularly cut off.
The allegations shared with council officers were of an extremely serious nature. The lawsuit was brought to seek justice for some of the community’s most vulnerable residents and to deter others from committing similar acts.
Of the three other defendants in the case, Pedram Tamiz, also of Flint Lane, Lenham, was given seven custodial sentences ranging from five to 11 months, some concurrent and some consecutive, culminating in a sentence total of three years and four months’ imprisonment.
Adam McChesney, of Gloucester Avenue, Margate, was given five custodial sentences ranging from six to eight months, some concurrent and some consecutive. This resulted in a total sentence of one year and eight months in prison. Mr McChesney’s full sentence was suspended for 24 months by Judge Lowe, who further ordered that he must perform 250 hours of unpaid work.
Kasem El Darrat, of Athelstan Road, Margate, was sentenced to a 12 month community order and must complete 150 hours of unpaid work and attend 15 days of rehabilitation activity requirement.
In July 2022, the four were found guilty by a jury at Canterbury Crown Court of a total of 28 offenses including conspiracy to unlawfully evict a tenant, conspiracy to burglary and conspiracy to to interfere and directly interfere with the peace or comfort of a residential occupant.
Counsel also asked the court to compensate the victims.
Judge Lowe accepted the claims, saying: “These are real victims who suffered terror, shock and distress, loss of property and, in one case, serious injury. So I think the compensation orders are appropriate.
Ten compensation orders have been made totaling £30,500, which are to be paid by Sohila Tamiz, Pedram Tamiz and Adam McChesney in varying proportions.
Cllr Ash Ashbee, Leader of Thanet District Council, said: “The sentences the judge handed down today reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed by these four people.
“This was a historic prosecution for us, and one of the largest ever for this type of criminal activity in England. This result sends a strong message to other owners and officers in the area that we will not hesitate not to sue you if you unlawfully evict or harass your tenants.
“I would like to thank the council’s private sector housing team who worked tirelessly on this case for over three years and were determined to get justice for the victims.”
Applications for criminal behavior orders have also been made by the council. The court accepted restraining orders against Sohila Tamiz and Pedram Tamiz. The orders, which are of indefinite duration unless re-ordered, prohibit them from engaging in rental agency or property management activities and from acting as as a homeowner 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 is due to pay £62,500 within 18 months and Adam McChesney is due to pay £12,500 within 36 months. The four culprits must also pay a legal surcharge.