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CRAYFORD: Man acquitted of benefit fraud after longstanding battle with council
12:20pm Wednesday 11th November 2009 in News
A PENSIONER accused of dishonestly claiming council tax benefit got some revenge on Bexley Council when he was cleared of the charges.
Ian Mitchell, 68, of Crayford Way, Crayford, had denied obtaining £5,000, by making three claims for council tax benefits between 2000 and 2002, when he had undeclared savings.
A jury at Isleworth Crown Court, Middlesex, took just 20 minutes to acquit him.
Mr Mitchell has been waging a longstanding battle against Bexley Council, accusing it of failing to do anything about the yobs who have targeted him and his home.
The court heard how Mr Mitchell was driven to such despair that last year, he set fire to his house.
It was so badly damaged he now lives in a shed in the garden.
Mr Mitchell was prosecuted for the fire and is currently serving a suspended jail sentence.
Barrister David Martin-Sperry took up the retired builder’s case after he turned up alone to court with boxes of notes and photographs.
Mr Martin-Sperry said Bexley Council has been warned not to continue the case because it could end up looking “a laughing stock”.
Mr Mitchell told the court between 1993 and 2006 he had complained to Bexley 81 times and asked for its help.
He claimed local yobs had smashed his windows, covered his car in oil and pelted him with beer cans and eggs.
He said he had been abused by motorists who blocked his entrance and even parked on his driveway.
To make things worse, some of them were service vehicles.
On the advice of police, he began photographing them, but this brought even more abuse.
He said local youths would gather outside his home drinking, sitting on his and his neighbours’ walls and even leaning up against his house.
He said he had spent nearly £2,500 on CCTV cameras to film the culprits, but no one had ever come to view the tapes.
The jury was shown some of more than 1,000 of his photos.
Mr Mitchell told the jury: “I hate Bexley so much, you cannot imagine.”
Last year he set fire to his house, which he owns outright.
He told the jury: “I poured a gallon of petrol in every room and lit a match.
“I thought ‘no more begging the council for anything ever again’.”
Mr Mitchell said within weeks of the fire, the traffic improvements outside his house he had been requesting for more than 20 years, were done.
He told the court he had claimed the benefits to get back at the council.
He said: “They screwed me, so I wanted to screw them.”
Mr Mitchell added he had even told the council what he was doing, “so I could have my day in court”.
After the case, Mr Martin-Sperry said: “This case should never have been brought. It is absolutely crazy.”
Bexley Council justified the prosecution saying the sum involved was nearly £5,600 and Mr Mitchell had admitted the express intention of receiving benefit he was not entitled to.
A spokesman said any complaints about anti-social behaviour were a separate issue from benefit fraud.
But Mr Mitchell’s battles are not yet over.
Bexley has put a charging order on his ruined home to get back the benefit payments and it is taking him back to court to try and secure an anti-social behaviour order over claims he is harassing councillors and officials.