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8.10.07 Dirty Housing Politics - Taken to Court: A Residents Nightmare

I have an experience re ASBOs as Camden council managed to get one against me in Nov 05 (now spent) because of a 'community politics' situation.

Briefly, I had always been keen to start a genuine community project 'For all' in our area - Somers Town in Camden, London as most projects were earmarked as 'only for (various) ethnic groups', which some of us felt kept 'our community' separated!

* Camilla Batmanghella's kids company project inspired me.

* But I felt a need to do something for my elderly neighbours as well.

* I started Cafe Basil (for all) so named as we started out in the 'Basil Jellico Hall' - one night a week - for the teenagers.

* At the time 5 million pounds came into the area via a 5 year government 'regeneration' budget. The committee formed to run it was not neutral but made up of local people with their own agendas.

* A few of us had 'made nuicances' of ourselves by complaining to the housing committee about the way our local tenants halls were being run by a handful of (in effect) self appointed tenants.

* Various of these refused us access to local halls for our project because they could make a lot of money (£30 per hour) by hiring them out to all kinds of odd churches and similar 'outside' projects. Our community halls evidentaly are popular because we are so central.

* Matters at St Pancras housing association's Basil Jellico hall, came to a head when some kids messing around with condoms (which they had been given by a sexual healh clinic project in our area) had left some in the Basil jellico hall toilet.

* St pancras housing association then evicted our project using the excuse that we must have been encouraging under age sex!!!

* We tried again to get access to one or other of our four local tenant halls but could not.

* We were told by some local people in the know that it was because of petty corruption in tenants' committees, apparently those holding the keys were depositing money from lettings into secret accounts showing false accounts to the council each year. We were told that the housing office knew this but would not tackle it for reasons of local politics.

* Our cafe Basil project was now homeless so giving up the fight to use community halls, I found an abandoned local shop and with my own money opened it as a full time charitable Cafe Basil For all.

* The Cafe Bsil 'For All' tag became the sticking point. We could not get proper funding becuase we did not tick the right boxes - the regeneration money favoured separate groups of ethnic minorities.

* Unfortunately, the old shop belonged to the commercial letting dept of Camden council and was situated on housing land (Amthill Square) and was on the housing estate of one of the 'tenant leader' people we had made enemies with because of not being able to gain access to the tenants hall there. This tenant 'leader' was also chair of the 5 million pound regeneration money committee!

* So we plodded on regardless. It was poplar with everyone.We began to be harassed by various people including one individual who had taken to pouring hot tea and coffee from his balcony onto the heads of those entering Cafe Basil, - his blacony overlooked our entrance.

* I made a formal complaint about this and other similar harrasments to the housing dept as the culprits lived in the adjoining Council flats.

* I had credible witnesses who eventually came to the asbo court to testify for me.


* a nice neighbour who was on that particular tenants committee came in to Cafe Basil to forwarn me that a meeting was in progress in the tenant hall - about how to go about evicting our project.

* After many weeks of serious harrasment and the housing dept's local chief taking sides with the people I had made formal complaints about, I lost my cool and went in and had a bit of a shout at them all, I admit I became a touch hysterical when I saw them all sitting there looking very smug.

* My regretted my confrontation but I was working 14 hours per day 7 days per week on the project so the stress of their undermining it proved too much. my outburst was swiftly regarded as 'violence'!I had given them the excuse they wanted so that they could say I was a violent and dangerous person (their words), so they now had a reason to evict Cafe Basil from this abandonded shop for which we were paying full commercial rent!

* I was summoned to the county court. A ten minute hearing had been booked for an ASBO on me to protect tenant leaders and council officials! It was laughable.

* But the judge on seeing a barrister and so many council officials and tenants (the very same ones who had harassed us for reasons of previous arguments about there being no access to local tenant halls - AND becuase of their petty corrupt running of them), the judge said that "it seemed wrong that someone

"like me" should be given an ASBO. So he deferred it and booked a 3 day hearing to get to the bottom of it.

Eventually another judge took the case and was seemingly so confused by 3 and half days of internicine hellish stories and cross examinations that he seemed to throw his hands in the air, half side with the council saying that I seemed to him to be a feisty person yet utting it on the record that their chief witness' evidence was wholly unreliable. (I was defending myself and had to cross examine them all myself).

*But he did refuse to award costs against me a full £28,000 that Camden spent on my asbo. For they had had the nerve to try to get it from me!

*instead of appealing - as I should have, I had a serious nervous breakdown (I had never had one before) which involved my stopping eating and losing 3 stone in a month! Doctors records have recorded it.

* I somehow , with the help of friends and family recovered and am now back to normal.

It was the shock of witnessing the professional council officers lying on oath about events and typing up collected false witness statements (from these old enemies of whom I had had good reason to make formal complaints about) statements that were garbled, in bad handwriting and so retyped by the housing office. they were literally made up.

I have since given up community activities and there is no community cafe for the kids and others to enjoy in our area. the building remains empty with our pretty sign still written large above the shutters.

Sandi Dunn


Volunteer hit by nuisance ruling: I’m the victim

28 October 2005

Caroline McClatchey

A community worker has been served with an interim anti-social behaviour injunction after allegations of harassment and intimidation.

Sandi Dunn, who voluntarily runs the Café Basil community centre in Eversholt Street, has been ordered not to cause nuisance around the Ampthill Square Estate, Harrington Square, in Somers Town.

Camden Council applied for the injunction (Asbi) after complaints from residents.

At the Central London County Court in Regent's Park on Monday, Ms Dunn, 55, denied the allegations but admitted an outburst at a meeting.

She said: "After two or three years of harassment I had an outburst. I'm not aware it's a crime in Britain to have an outburst. There must be millions of outbursts in every corner of the land but they don't get an Asbi.

"I believe the whole thing to be a conspiracy. There is a horrible rumour factory going on. I got a poison pen letter saying I was being investigated for fraud and should be careful walking up and down Cranleigh Street."

The key complainants against Ms Dunn are David Parker, Ceri Thomas, Lord Timothy Thomas and Jean Haggett.