CRAYFORD: Man acquitted of benefit fraud after longstanding battle with council

Now Ian Mitchell lives in his garden shed

Mr Mitchell outside the ruins of his house

Inside Mr Mitchell's house after he set fire to it last year

First published 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.

Comments (17)

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1:47pm Wed 11 Nov 09

madras says...

there's a right way and a wrong way to make a point - whilst I sympathise with the traffic and 'yob' issues, setting fire to his house (is it by any chance not actually 'his' house but in fact the local authority's???) is hardly responsible. And if he admits to 'scamming' £5k he should be expected to pay it back.

And the council should also look at re-housing him (and perhaps using the house for a family?)
there's a right way and a wrong way to make a point - whilst I sympathise with the traffic and 'yob' issues, setting fire to his house (is it by any chance not actually 'his' house but in fact the local authority's???) is hardly responsible. And if he admits to 'scamming' £5k he should be expected to pay it back. And the council should also look at re-housing him (and perhaps using the house for a family?) madras
  • Score: 0

2:25pm Wed 11 Nov 09

Willey says...

Although one cannot condone this gentleman's actions are Bexley not part of the problem - Bexley Say Listening to you, working for you? Clearly not when someone feels so frustrated they resort to these actions. And where were the Police whilst this man was victimised - they too are culpable. As for the scum that caused this man's mental torture - they are probably proud of themselves.
Although one cannot condone this gentleman's actions are Bexley not part of the problem - Bexley Say Listening to you, working for you? Clearly not when someone feels so frustrated they resort to these actions. And where were the Police whilst this man was victimised - they too are culpable. As for the scum that caused this man's mental torture - they are probably proud of themselves. Willey
  • Score: 0

2:47pm Wed 11 Nov 09

shergars ghost says...

The 'Jobsworths' on Bexley Council obviously did not refer the matter to 'outside agencies' like the Police, Social Services etc., but used there Judicial might to crush this man.
It is like a pantomine really, a squabble that got out of hand with each pointing at the other; Problem is, Bexley Council used our Money to pursue this ridiculous action.
Must make them proud.....!!!
The 'Jobsworths' on Bexley Council obviously did not refer the matter to 'outside agencies' like the Police, Social Services etc., but used there Judicial might to crush this man. It is like a pantomine really, a squabble that got out of hand with each pointing at the other; Problem is, Bexley Council used our Money to pursue this ridiculous action. Must make them proud.....!!! shergars ghost
  • Score: 0

3:09pm Wed 11 Nov 09

Only_me!! says...

the british justice system amazes me, this man put others at risk by setting fire to his house, not only the amount of time and money wasted on emergency services, he gets a suspended sentance for arson!, he even admits benefit fraud and gets not guilty! now he living in hes garden shed, this man is an absolute idiot!!!!!
the british justice system amazes me, this man put others at risk by setting fire to his house, not only the amount of time and money wasted on emergency services, he gets a suspended sentance for arson!, he even admits benefit fraud and gets not guilty! now he living in hes garden shed, this man is an absolute idiot!!!!! Only_me!!
  • Score: 0

4:18pm Wed 11 Nov 09

willyboy says...

it is possible for someone to think irrationally and in complete dispair act in this way when they think they have exhausted all other routes? after all this torment who knows whats going through this chaps head?
it is possible for someone to think irrationally and in complete dispair act in this way when they think they have exhausted all other routes? after all this torment who knows whats going through this chaps head? willyboy
  • Score: 0

4:37pm Wed 11 Nov 09

Only_me!! says...

under no circumstances is it acceptable to act in this way. Whats next when he cant get moved is he going to burn hes shed down? whens it gana stop, hes a menace he should be locked up
under no circumstances is it acceptable to act in this way. Whats next when he cant get moved is he going to burn hes shed down? whens it gana stop, hes a menace he should be locked up Only_me!!
  • Score: 0

6:02pm Wed 11 Nov 09

sdoerr says...

What a bizarre story! Nowhere is it explained how he came to be cleared of the charges over council-tax benefit fraud. I suppose we will never know the reasons for the jury's verdict.
What a bizarre story! Nowhere is it explained how he came to be cleared of the charges over council-tax benefit fraud. I suppose we will never know the reasons for the jury's verdict. sdoerr
  • Score: 0

8:10am Thu 12 Nov 09

DrDBexley says...

This is just an idea, but I imagine that due to the fact that he told bexley council that he wasn't entitled to the benefits (quote from the above article "Mr Mitchell added he had even told the council what he was doing") he can not be accused of acting fraudulantly. If the processes of Bexley Council are so lax and inept that you can say "I'm not entitled to this, but can I have it anyway?" and they say "Yeah, sure!" then that is the fault of Bexley Council not this guy.

If you are given too much change in a shop, it's not your fault - fair enough you may hand it back, or you may keep it, but you didn't obtain it fraudulantly!

There is one clear victim and one clear criminal here, and the criminal is not Mr Mitchell.

Bexley Council seriously need to look at themselves professionally and morally on this one - the fact of the matter is they failed Mr Mitchell in an awful and devastating way.
This is just an idea, but I imagine that due to the fact that he told bexley council that he wasn't entitled to the benefits (quote from the above article "Mr Mitchell added he had even told the council what he was doing") he can not be accused of acting fraudulantly. If the processes of Bexley Council are so lax and inept that you can say "I'm not entitled to this, but can I have it anyway?" and they say "Yeah, sure!" then that is the fault of Bexley Council not this guy. If you are given too much change in a shop, it's not your fault - fair enough you may hand it back, or you may keep it, but you didn't obtain it fraudulantly! There is one clear victim and one clear criminal here, and the criminal is not Mr Mitchell. Bexley Council seriously need to look at themselves professionally and morally on this one - the fact of the matter is they failed Mr Mitchell in an awful and devastating way. DrDBexley
  • Score: 0

12:21pm Thu 12 Nov 09

Sammykay says...

madras wrote:
there's a right way and a wrong way to make a point - whilst I sympathise with the traffic and 'yob' issues, setting fire to his house (is it by any chance not actually 'his' house but in fact the local authority's???) is hardly responsible. And if he admits to 'scamming' £5k he should be expected to pay it back. And the council should also look at re-housing him (and perhaps using the house for a family?)
just to clarify, the artical does state "last year he set fire to his house, which he owns outright"
[quote][p][bold]madras[/bold] wrote: there's a right way and a wrong way to make a point - whilst I sympathise with the traffic and 'yob' issues, setting fire to his house (is it by any chance not actually 'his' house but in fact the local authority's???) is hardly responsible. And if he admits to 'scamming' £5k he should be expected to pay it back. And the council should also look at re-housing him (and perhaps using the house for a family?)[/p][/quote]just to clarify, the artical does state "last year he set fire to his house, which he owns outright" Sammykay
  • Score: 0

4:39pm Thu 12 Nov 09

Totally Frustrated says...

This case is absolutely crazy.... Has the world gone mad??? Why were not all the facts added? I hope we will be able to have our say on this horrendous man and maybe he wont be able to carry on terrorising us for ever.
This case is absolutely crazy.... Has the world gone mad??? Why were not all the facts added? I hope we will be able to have our say on this horrendous man and maybe he wont be able to carry on terrorising us for ever. Totally Frustrated
  • Score: 0

5:02pm Thu 12 Nov 09

DrDBexley says...

Totally Frustrated wrote:
This case is absolutely crazy.... Has the world gone mad??? Why were not all the facts added? I hope we will be able to have our say on this horrendous man and maybe he wont be able to carry on terrorising us for ever.
What facts are missing??!!
[quote][p][bold]Totally Frustrated[/bold] wrote: This case is absolutely crazy.... Has the world gone mad??? Why were not all the facts added? I hope we will be able to have our say on this horrendous man and maybe he wont be able to carry on terrorising us for ever.[/p][/quote]What facts are missing??!! DrDBexley
  • Score: 0

11:36am Fri 13 Nov 09

I can't believe the gullibility of the courts says...

I agree with Totally Frustrated. This is a one sided report from one of the nastiest things I've ever met. It would have been nice if the people who live near him were asked their opinions. He is a rude, obnoxious person who has spent years bullying and intimidating his neighbours, who are also pensioners, to the point where one of them is seriously ill. He abuses people who walk past and half of the things that have been claimed to have been done, have apparently been done by him. He has been racially abusive to the owners of the local shop. He has apparently hit a local youth which is probably the reason why local yobs allegedly did what he says. The place is now an eyesore and totally unfit for habitation, so he lives in the shed and uses the garden as his toilet. Before anyone takes his side please ask around.
I agree with Totally Frustrated. This is a one sided report from one of the nastiest things I've ever met. It would have been nice if the people who live near him were asked their opinions. He is a rude, obnoxious person who has spent years bullying and intimidating his neighbours, who are also pensioners, to the point where one of them is seriously ill. He abuses people who walk past and half of the things that have been claimed to have been done, have apparently been done by him. He has been racially abusive to the owners of the local shop. He has apparently hit a local youth which is probably the reason why local yobs allegedly did what he says. The place is now an eyesore and totally unfit for habitation, so he lives in the shed and uses the garden as his toilet. Before anyone takes his side please ask around. I can't believe the gullibility of the courts
  • Score: 0

11:56am Fri 13 Nov 09

Totally Frustrated says...

I have contacted The News Shopper and with a bit of luck the whole story with all the facts will now br told.
I have contacted The News Shopper and with a bit of luck the whole story with all the facts will now br told. Totally Frustrated
  • Score: 0

12:08pm Sat 14 Nov 09

Seeking Impartiality says...

Whilst Mr. Mitchell is portrayed as a tortured soul, what about the mental pain and suffering inflicted upon his neighbours?
. Did the journalist ascertain their age, health or vulnerability? Did he even interview them? An arsonist at work, with no remorse for his deeds suggests something out of a horror movie. Executing the same with residents nearby is completely unacceptable. It sounds as if Mr. Mitchell can admit to anything and get away with it. I doubt that many other councils would have tolerated his misdemeanours. What now? If he is so "tortured" how many more homes will go up in flames. I hope and pray this situation is resolved before any fatalities occur.
Whilst Mr. Mitchell is portrayed as a tortured soul, what about the mental pain and suffering inflicted upon his neighbours? . Did the journalist ascertain their age, health or vulnerability? Did he even interview them? An arsonist at work, with no remorse for his deeds suggests something out of a horror movie. Executing the same with residents nearby is completely unacceptable. It sounds as if Mr. Mitchell can admit to anything and get away with it. I doubt that many other councils would have tolerated his misdemeanours. What now? If he is so "tortured" how many more homes will go up in flames. I hope and pray this situation is resolved before any fatalities occur. Seeking Impartiality
  • Score: 0

10:41am Sun 15 Nov 09

bigted80 says...

He set fire to his own home!!! The man is nuts. He could have killed someone. What were the Police doing, why didn't they help.

Looks like a matter for the Police not the town hall pen pushers. Get the plod down to crack a few heads!
He set fire to his own home!!! The man is nuts. He could have killed someone. What were the Police doing, why didn't they help. Looks like a matter for the Police not the town hall pen pushers. Get the plod down to crack a few heads! bigted80
  • Score: 0

9:30pm Mon 16 Nov 09

get_your_facts_right says...

As a Crayford citizen, this is absolutely outrageous. The newshopper has only printed one side of the story which happens to be based on a pack of lies, told by a menace who terrorises everyone around him. The 'yobs' did not throw anything at his windows, he threw the brick himself and admitted it in court, why else would the glass have been on the outside, if it was thrown from the outside, it would have smashed inwards but it didnt. And was he being abused when someone parked outside his house for 5minutes to pop into the shop and mr mitchell took a weapon outside and smashed the motorist's windscreen? i dont think so, what about when he attacked and badly injured a 15 year old boy when the boys football strayed into mr mitchells front garden and he went to retrieve it? The CCTV camera he put up had to be taken down as it was directed into his neighbours front garden which is a invasion of privacy so he clearly wasnt intending to film the 'culprits' and no-one came to view the videos? Members of the council did, but he refused to show the videos to anyone. Setting his house on fire was immature and another pathetic attempt to hurt his neighbour whose house was affected by the fire, but could have been a lot worse and could have burnt down their house also, with them in it and all of their personal, valuable and sentimental possessions. Mr mitchell was rehoused by the council to a flat which he refused to live in so what more can the council do, it was his choice to stay in the shed. I personally think it is absolutely disgusting that this man uses his garden as a toilet, it is unhygienic and inhumane. This man is continuing to harass his neighbours in every possible way, using crude language and loud noises and banging, and several times has tried to physically abuse his neighbours. I think anyone that wants to comment on him or feel sorry for him should get their heads sorted because this man is evil. I hope people take notice of this because i have not told damaging lies like Mr Mitchell and i hope that the other side of the story, told by his neighbours is printed so the truth can be told. This man does not deserve sympathy or pity, he is a disgrace to the human race.
As a Crayford citizen, this is absolutely outrageous. The newshopper has only printed one side of the story which happens to be based on a pack of lies, told by a menace who terrorises everyone around him. The 'yobs' did not throw anything at his windows, he threw the brick himself and admitted it in court, why else would the glass have been on the outside, if it was thrown from the outside, it would have smashed inwards but it didnt. And was he being abused when someone parked outside his house for 5minutes to pop into the shop and mr mitchell took a weapon outside and smashed the motorist's windscreen? i dont think so, what about when he attacked and badly injured a 15 year old boy when the boys football strayed into mr mitchells front garden and he went to retrieve it? The CCTV camera he put up had to be taken down as it was directed into his neighbours front garden which is a invasion of privacy so he clearly wasnt intending to film the 'culprits' and no-one came to view the videos? Members of the council did, but he refused to show the videos to anyone. Setting his house on fire was immature and another pathetic attempt to hurt his neighbour whose house was affected by the fire, but could have been a lot worse and could have burnt down their house also, with them in it and all of their personal, valuable and sentimental possessions. Mr mitchell was rehoused by the council to a flat which he refused to live in so what more can the council do, it was his choice to stay in the shed. I personally think it is absolutely disgusting that this man uses his garden as a toilet, it is unhygienic and inhumane. This man is continuing to harass his neighbours in every possible way, using crude language and loud noises and banging, and several times has tried to physically abuse his neighbours. I think anyone that wants to comment on him or feel sorry for him should get their heads sorted because this man is evil. I hope people take notice of this because i have not told damaging lies like Mr Mitchell and i hope that the other side of the story, told by his neighbours is printed so the truth can be told. This man does not deserve sympathy or pity, he is a disgrace to the human race. get_your_facts_right
  • Score: 0

10:00pm Wed 18 Nov 09

counciltaxpayers says...

It sounds like Mr Mitchell may have mental health problems, why did Bexley Council waste taxpayers money on a prosecution against him if they had already ensured the benefits money was going to be claimed back from his home when sold. Why was a prosecution in the public interest? How much public money was wasted on this prosecution that could have been better used elsewhere? It sounds like the council had a hidden agenda here - showing Mr Mitchell who really held the power and control, this should not have been the basis of the decision to prosecute when it was at our expense.
It sounds like Mr Mitchell may have mental health problems, why did Bexley Council waste taxpayers money on a prosecution against him if they had already ensured the benefits money was going to be claimed back from his home when sold. Why was a prosecution in the public interest? How much public money was wasted on this prosecution that could have been better used elsewhere? It sounds like the council had a hidden agenda here - showing Mr Mitchell who really held the power and control, this should not have been the basis of the decision to prosecute when it was at our expense. counciltaxpayers
  • Score: 0

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