A desperate man who ‘booby trapped’ his home after bailiffs came round to evict him over failure to pay £900 bedroom tax arrears has been jailed.
Michael Hilton planted gas canisters and petrol around his home on Meadoway in Church when a bailiff and antisocial behaviour investigator went round on June 4 this year to evict him.
The 52-year-old barricaded the front door and stairs with items from the house and gas canisters and covered them with petrol, Burnley Crown Court heard. Hilton pleaded guilty to criminal damage and threatening to destroy or damage property and was jailed for 10 months.
Ten police officers and PCSOs, 14 specialist officers and fire crews were called to the scene and were for around four hours during a stand-off.
Sara Dodd, prosecuting, said the incident had ‘depleted the whole of fire service provision in Hyndburn’ and cost around £2,600.
The court heard how Hilton refused to come out and was seen to be smoking cigarettes. Fire crews pushed a detector through his letter box to determine the level of noxious gases and made the decision to force entry despite them not being at ‘explosive levels’.
Miss Dodd said: “Police forced entry wearing full flame protective equipment and head gear. He had created a barricade behind the door going up the stairs. They were aware there was a risk to their safety and the smell of accelerants was very clear. There was a risk of deliberate ignition and also an accidental one.”
Philip Holden, defending, said the offence was ‘out of character’ for Hilton.
He 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 that Hilton did not intend to cause any injury and ‘ultimately no injury was caused’.
He said: “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 said the level of response was similar to that of a ‘bomb hoax’.
He said: “What your did led to a major deployment of resources which is of substantial public expense. but that level of response seems to be entirely appropriate from an independent point of view. Only a custodial sentence is appropriate.”