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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Police Officer avoids jail after unlawfully evicting family from their home

Police Officer avoids jail after unlawfully evicting family from their home

A POLICE officer has narrowly avoided jail after throwing a mother out of her home.

Sergeant Christopher Hine unlawfully evicted the woman, who was renting a bungalow from him.

A court heard off-duty Hine, 50, his partner and two other men turned up to remove Catherine Baxter from the property.

She was dragged out in tears, as shocked neighbours looked on.

Ms Baxter was receiving housing benefit and had been unable to keep up the £495-a-month rent at the property, in Mere View Avenue, Hornsea, which he needed to pay the mortgage.

Hine – Humberside Police's wildlife crime officer – has been given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, ordered to carry out 200 hours of work in the community and pay £1,400 costs.

He now faces an internal disciplinary hearing and could lose his job, after appearing before Beverley magistrates for sentencing yesterday.

Roger Evans, chairman of the bench, told him: "You knew Ms Baxter intended to remain in residence, but you attended mob handed intending to evict her.

"Although there was evidence she was a bad tenant, you of all people should know you can't take the law into your own hands.

"We accept there may have been some provocation, but it is unacceptable to recover property by illegal eviction."

The officer had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to depriving or displacing a residential occupier from premises.

Vincent Blake-Edwards, prosecuting for East Riding Council, said the defendant had not followed legal proceedings to evict his tenant from the two-bedroom bungalow on March 14.

He said initially during the first two months of the tenancy, which started on September 16, last year, Hine and Ms Baxter got on well.

Housing benefit was to be paid direct to Hine, with the outstanding monthly amount paid by the tenant.

When Ms Baxter did not keep up her payments, she received text messages from Hine saying he was fed up and wanted the money.

She then received a notice from Hine seeking possession of the property. The council advised her about the proper eviction procedures.

In February, Hine's partner shouted through the letterbox: "We need a moving date from you or we will come and physically remove you from the property."

Ms Baxter told them she was doing her best to move, but there was a shortage of properties.

She warned: "If you continue to harass me I am calling the police, and I will drag my heels and make you get a bailiff."

Mr Blake-Barnard said Ms Baxter and her seven-year-old son were in the garden when Hine, his partner and two friends went round to the bungalow.

She screamed at them to leave, but Hine went into her home and let the others in through the front door.

Due to the stress of the situation and high blood pressure, Ms Baxter was unable to walk, but eventually made her way to the front of the bungalow. During this time, the group were bagging up her property and piling it up on the driveway.

Ms Baxter pushed past Hine while he was attempting to change the locks and crawled into the property kicking and screaming.

Hine took hold of her legs, and with the help of his partner, moved her out of the house in tears on to the doorstep.

Mr Blake-Barnard said neighbours witnessed the incident and confirmed Ms Baxter was shouting for help.

The police and ambulance service were called and Hine told a police inspector he knew he would need a court order and bailiff to evict his tenant.

Ms Baxter and her son were checked over by paramedics but were not allowed back into the bungalow.

Council officers found the mother and son a place in hostel, and they then moved into a family caravan in the area.

The court heard Ms Baxter and her son were traumatised by the experience, referring to it as "that evil day".

Nathan Moxon, defending, said Hine regretted his actions and was full of remorse.

He said: "He recognises the consequences of the offence on the victim and if he had his time over again he would have done things differently.

"He is a man of totally good character and has no previous convictions."

Mr Moxon said the defendant needed the rent to pay the mortgage on the bungalow.

Not receiving the rent was adding to his financial difficulties, but he was also seeing the property fall in to disrepair through the tenant's neglect.

Humberside Police said they would be conducting an internal investigation into the conduct of the officer now the criminal case had concluded.

"The force remains committed to ensuring that officers and staff within the organisation uphold the standards of professional behaviour required of them," a spokesman added.

Comment: It is not explained why the bent copper's partner and the two accomplices were not also charged. It does not say whether the bent copper has been suspended from duty. It does not explain who prevented the tenant from legally returning to the property. It does not explain why the bent copper and his partner were not charged with harrassment and assault.

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