A man has been jailed after he ‘booby trapped’ his home to prevent bailiffs from entering the property to evict him over his failure to pay £900 in ‘bedroom tax’ rent arrears.
Michael Hilton, 52, from Church in Lancashire planted gas cannisters and petrol around his home when a bailiff and anti-social behaviour investigator visited the property in June to evict him, the Accrington Observer reports.
Mr Hilton barricaded his front door and stairs with household items and gas cannisters covered with petrol, before threatening to destroy his home if bailiffs attempted entry.
Fire officers used a detector to determine the level of noxious gases before taking the decision to force entry into the property. When arrested Hilton claimed the petrol was for generators and that he had been “cleaning and tidying up”.
A court heard how Mr Hilton refused to leave his home of over 30 years and how the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ had pushed him into rent arrears.
He pleaded guilty to criminal damage and threatening to destroy or damage social housing property at Burnley Crown Court. The court sentenced him to ten months in prison.
Prosecutor Sara Dodd said his actions had “depleted the whole of the fire service provision in Hyndburn” after police officers, fourteen specialist officers and fire crews were called to the four-hour “stand off”.
Philip Holden, defending, said his clients actions were “out of character” and that he had never committed “anything like this sort of offence before”.
Mr Holden told the court: “It was borne out of utter frustration on his behalf with his dealings with the authorities and being told to leave his house of over 30 years and a place considered to be his home.
“He got into arrears because of a change in the law that required him to pay a surcharge or tax because there were too many bedrooms and he was unable to pay it.
“I accept on his behalf that it wasn’t an utterly inappropriate way to deal with any problems he may have had with the bailiffs. He felt they were being heavy handed with him.”
Mr Holden said Hilton had no intention to harm or injure those present and that “ultimately no injury was caused”. He added:
“He didn’t anticipate the level of response from the emergency services but doesn’t seek to criticise them for that.
“He has already been in custody for four months which is the equivalent of an eight month sentence
“He has lost everything, his home, his caravan and it’s something he feels desperately strongly about. It’s plain he has the support of a loving family.”
Judge Jonathan Gibson compared the incident and level of response to that of a “bomb hoax”.
Addressing Mr Hilton judge Gibson said: “What your did led to a major deployment of resources which is of substantial public expense. Only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”