A mental health patient took a knife to a benefits tribunal so he could stab a judge at the hearing after his payments were stopped.
Kenneth Nicholson said he planned to carry out the attack so he could get locked up.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 49-year-old confessed he was armed when he met his psychiatric nurse outside South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court in South Shields just before the hearing last April.
Prosecutor Jolyon Perks told the court:
“On the day of the tribunal, judges became aware of the fact there had been prior notification from the community psychiatric nurse that this defendant harboured an intention to take a knife to the tribunal.
The court heard that one of the judging panel has since been left living in fear.
Mr Perks added;
“She says she was extremely frightened, worried that the defendant might be in a position to find out where she lives. She has an ongoing fear for her safety and that of her family.”
> I wonder how she felt before, making decisions that could drive people to desperate measures ? Perhaps she has a better understanding of the consequences her actions might have.
The court heard Nicholson had been receiving benefit payments after an incident at work almost 20 years ago resulted in mental health problems.
His payments were stopped after a new doctor concluded his mental state may not be linked to the industrial accident.
His case had been listed for an appeal hearing against the decision to stop the benefits, which was ultimately successful.
Nicholson, of no fixed address, admitted possession of a knife.
Recorder Andrew Baker told him:
“You had formed an intention, deluded and resulting from your mental condition, to use the knife on a member of the tribunal if you had the chance to do so.
“The thought process being it would get you locked up and you might be in a position to get legal representation.
“The fact that you were prepared to at least approach a court room of this country with an intention to do harm with a bladed weapon makes this a particularly serious case.”
The judge gave Nicholson a 20-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months, with mental health treatment requirements.
He was warned by the judge:
“You are a risk that can be managed in the community but I hope you understand you must treat this as a, literally, once in a lifetime opportunity for you.”
Graeme Cook, defending, said Nicholson gave the weapon to his health worker as soon as he was asked.
Mr Cook said:
“He would not have got through the security anyway, but he handed it over straight away.”
> Yet another peril of living in rented accommodation…
A drink and drug-fuelled landlord and his friend have been jailed after savagely attacking a dad in a row over unpaid rent.
Peter Jones, 52, and Robert Angus, 48, pushed the victim to the ground before repeatedly kicking and stamping on him in his own front garden, knocking out three of his teeth.
The attack happened on August 29, when landlord Jones, who had taken a concoction of alcohol and drugs, turned up at a property in search of rent money with Angus.
Newcastle Crown Court heard how Jones – who has eight previous convictions including for football hooliganism at Newcastle’s Central train station – and Angus, turned up at a couple’s home at Fairgreen Close, Sunderland, at about 9pm.
After being refused permission to enter the house by the woman, Angus then manhandled her at the front door.
He husband, who was upstairs with their eight-year-old son, then came to his wife’s aid by throwing a punch at one of the men before being dragged outside into the garden of the property and attacked.
Prosecutor Mr Bunch told the court:
“The victim was repeatedly kicked and punched and stamped on outside his home. Their eight-year-old son was present and witnessed some of the attack.
“There was heavy contact blood staining on both of the defendants shoes and scientists revealed that both men had taken part.
“Police were called and they attended scene. The defendants had then left the house, but returned an hour later after one had left behind a mobile phone.
“Police were notified by a neighbour and the men were arrested after showing clear signs they had been in a fight.
“Jones was found in possession of a white powder later found to be an amphetamine.”
The court was told that in police interviews, Jones, of Benfleet Avenue, Townend Farm, Sunderland, said he had consumed 10 pints of beer and some of the white powder and claimed that the tenants owed him £1,500 in rent.
Angus, of Colombo Road, Castletown, Sunderland, made no reply to police questioning.
Michael Bunch, added:
“The victim suffered a swollen and bloody nose and wounded left cheek and jaw. He also lost his front three upper teeth and now struggles to eat certain foods, as he has had a bridge fitted for support.
“He has also received cartilage damage to his upper left chest and now requires physiotherapy. The family have since moved from the property.”
In a statement read out in court the victim said:
“This was an unprovoked attack. They assaulted my wife and my son watched some of what happened.”
Defence barrister Thomas Laffey, defending Jones, said:
“He pleaded guilty at the plea and case management hearing so should be given full credit.
“He rented out the property where the incident occurred and his sister looked after it and collects the rent. The money simply began to not get paid, despite his sister sending texts stating what they owed. He admits that he made an extremely irresponsible decision by going to sort the matter out himself after consuming alcohol and drugs.
“He now resides with his current partner and her daughter, his main concern is that his partner won’t be able to manage the rent if he loses his liberty.”
Defence barrister David Callan, defending Angus, said:
“In general Mr Angus is not a man of violence.
“He went on an ill-considered venture which he did for his friend. He has worked all of his life and has had health problems including a heart attack, which left some brain damage.
“He is a 48-year-old man in poor health and and who pleaded guilty at the first plea and case management hearing.”
Judge Simon Hickey sentenced Jones to 18 months’ imprisonment and Angus to 15 months’ imprisonment for assault causing actual bodily harm.
Jones was also charged for possession of a Class B drug and both men were given restraining orders.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 06 Feb 2015
A disabled man claims he is facing eviction from his council flat over falling behind on rent payments.
The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, has blamed the Bedroom Tax for getting into financial difficulty and could be made to move in just over a month.
That’s if Your Homes Newcastle, an organisation which manages council homes across the city, decides to evict him from his flat in Westgate Road.
The potential eviction follows the loss of the tenant’s housing benefit.
Though it was reinstated, a shortfall caused by the bedroom tax was not paid, meaning his rent arrears have continued to rise.
The man appealed his eviction yesterday at Newcastle Crown Court in a case which will be heard again in 42 days. It will allow him to reapply for benefits that will enable him to pay his rent and reduce the level of arrears, according to the housing provider.
Following the hearing, he was joined at Todd’s Nook Tower on Westgate Road by fellow tenants and activists in protest of the proposals.
The man, who suffers from anxiety which worsens his arthritis, said his life has become dramatically worse since the situation began.
“This situation has made everything worse for me. The anxiety causes so much pain in my body and makes my arthritis even worse. It’s a massive downward health spiral.”
He added that the situation had left him unhappy in his own home, where he has lived for almost a decade.
“I now hate being in the flat, I want out of it. The memories created by the way the council have treated me sicken me. There’s no way I can be happy here,” he said.
He said that the extended 42-day window before the decision is made on the eviction will give him more time to involve disability activists in his case in a bid to save himself from eviction.
Campaigner James Bell, 23, from Whitley Bay, attended the demonstration has offered support and advice to other tenants being hit by the tax.
Mr Bell said: “He’s come out and given support to people who are going through this. He’s been consistent to opposition to this.”
Tradesman Richard Hartfield, 34, from the West End of Newcastle added:
“We’re putting the unity back in community. He’s helped others in need and we’re to return that.
“I’ve been in that situation a few times, it’s about having other people there that you can go to for advice. We’re here to defend the man and his rights.”
Your Homes Newcastle said eviction was only an option in the most extreme circumstances and that the situation has arisen after attempts to engage with the man failed.
Director of tenancy services Neil Scott said:
“Since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013 we have made every effort to assist any tenant who has been affected and offer support to enable them to meet their rent payments.
“Eviction action has been an absolute last resort where we have exhausted all other avenues or where tenants have refused support from us.”
A spokesman for Newcastle City Council said:
“The council social housing provider Your Homes Newcastle has an excellent track record in supporting tenants who find themselves facing financial difficulties. We would much prefer to work with those at risk to help them avoid losing their homes. Clearly this does depend on the tenants being willing to cooperate in the process.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 28 Nov 2014
A desperate man was blackmailed into becoming a drug dealer when loan sharks demanded £27,000 after he borrowed just £2,000.
Ryan Craggs was sent torture threats, warned that his wife would have acid thrown in her face, while his son was actually attacked.
During the terror campaign, where the lenders demanded more and more money, the family’s horse had its throat cut.
Loan sharks would turn up and take vehicles belonging to the family, which they said would reduce but still not settle the enormous debt.
Newcastle Crown Court heard, with the interest rate rising every day, Craggs, of Avon Crescent, Fence Houses, agreed to sell drugs in return for the debt being wiped out.
The 36-year-old was caught by the police in August last year with 48 wraps of crack cocaine hidden behind the ashtray compartment in his car while driving along Front Street in Fence Houses.
He confessed he had been selling £20 deals to customers for about three weeks.
Craggs pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply and would usually have faced years behind bars.
But Judge Paul Sloan QC told him:
“Unusually, and I state this in open court, there is independent evidence to corroborate much of what is said. This is clearly an unusual case.”
The judge sentenced him to 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with supervision and 120 hours’ unpaid work.
The judge told Craggs:
“I accept the circumstances and that you are thoroughly ashamed of your involvement.
“Unusually, most of your basis of plea was not disputed.”
The court heard Craggs had borrowed £2,000 at a time when he was unemployed and needed help to support his family.
He paid back £3,200 after being forced to sell his quad bike, but was told he still needed to pay more.
The situation turned nasty when he was unable to meet the payment demands.
Reading from his basis of plea, prosecutor Bridie Smurthwaite said:
“Threats were made to his daughter’s horse, which had its throat cut.
“There was also threats to his wife’s horse and his mother’s horse.
“A quad bike was taken and he was told one thousand pounds would be deducted from what he owed for that. He was also told if he didn’t get the money, his son would ‘get it’.
“His son was attacked, pulled off his scooter, his helmet pulled off and assaulted.
“At one point, he was told he owed £27,000. He was then told if he didn’t pay the money back, he would have to work for the lender.”
The court heard Craggs was pressured to work as a driver for the criminal gang in the summer of last year.
Miss Smurthwaite added:
“He did so because of what had previously happened.
“He and his wife were repeatedly subjected to threats to torture them, threatened there would be acid poured in his wife’s face.”
The court heard the lenders took Mrs Craggs’s car from her, which they said would reduce the mounting debt.
The worried dad agreed to the demands he should start dealing in the hope that he could finally free himself from the lenders.
He told detectives he had been selling £20 deals and had made about £10,000 for the lenders in the three weeks he was dealing.
Miss Smurthwaite said:
“He would not have supplied drugs but for the threats that were made and the intimidation he was subjected to.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 23 Oct 2014
A loan shark who preyed on vulnerable Wearsiders has been blasted by a crown court judge.
George Laws handed out cash to customers who would not be able to get credit from legitimate lenders and charged extortionate rates of repayment – sometimes up to 100 per cent.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the 50-year-old took one woman’s cashcard and pin from her to take get her £25-per-week repayment.
Laws, of Augustus Square, Sunderland, admitted unauthorised money lending on the basis he started loaning cash to pals after he received a lump sum from an insurance payout and things “snowballed”.
Mr Recorder Nicholas Lumley QC sentenced Laws to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with a six-month night-time curfew and supervision.
The judge told him: “Basically, you are a loan shark, an unlicensed money lender.
“Over a period of two years, you loaned money to some of society’s most vulnerable people – in this case, some of the poor residents of Sunderland.
“You preyed on them in the sense they were desperate and would not have been able to obtain loans from elsewhere.
“If they borrowed from you, which they did with ease, they would have to pay back at least half as much again. It was a rate of at least 50 per cent, which is an astonishing amount.”
The judge spoke of the dangers of illegal money lending and the impact it can have.
He told Laws: “There is no regulation, victims are borrowing more easily than they should and what they are able to pay is not assessed.
“The authorities have no way of regulating a time over which money needs to be repaid or set any interest rate.
“People borrow, then they become ever more vulnerable, perhaps to the advances of other loan sharks to pay what they owe.
“Their misery is compounded simply to make you more wealthy.”
The court heard as Laws’ business grew, one of his customers reported to the police that he had seized her cashcard to ensure repayments.
When officers searched his home they found documentation relating to 10 customers and loans totalling more than £21,000.
His records showed he had already been paid back more than £24,000, but was demanding a further £8,400.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told the court: “He was local, convenient and people used him. Some customers, for every £100 borrowed would have to repay double.
“Some were paying a different rate of interest, for whatever reason.”
Graeme Cook, defending, said Laws’ lending to friends had “snowballed”.
Mr Cook added: “In no way has he ever intimidated anyone as far as trying to recover his money. At worst, he recovered a bank card and pin number to enable him to withdraw, with the customer’s consent, £25 per week out of her benefit money.”
Mr Cook said he accepted the 100 per cent interest rate charged to some customers was “too much”.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 29 M1y 2014