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Defendant who claimed to be ‘Freeman of the land’ fined £15k for planning breaches

A resident who claimed to be a ‘Freeman of the land’ has been fined £15,000 for refusing to remove an unlawfully built extension that covered the whole of his back garden.

The defendant, Phoutone Siharath, claimed to magistrates, a crown court judge and a jury that the laws of the land did not apply to him.

The extension measured eight metres in length, four metres in width and nearly four metres in height. It was built without planning permission or building regulations approval.

The roof had been turned into a mini allotment and Siharath was frequently seen standing on the roof watering and tending his plants.

The court was told that “this results in severe and direct overlooking into the first-floor windows of the adjoining properties, seriously undermining their privacy and reasonable enjoyment of their properties. What is more the unacceptable visual appearance of the extension also has a negative effect on the neighbour’s outlook.”

Siharath failed to comply with requests by the council for the extension to be taken down, leading to enforcement action and his eventual prosecution.

A jury at Kingston Crown Court found him guilty of breaching planning laws at his home in Arnal Crescent, Wandsworth.

The judge said Siharath would go to jail for three months if he did not pay.

The defendant was fined £15,000 in his absence and was ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs of £7,586.

The judge suggested that the council could also obtain an order allowing it to demolish the extension itself and present Siharath with the bill.

Cllr Guy Humphries, Wandsworth’s planning chairman, said: “This resident has shown a complete lack of care or consideration towards his neighbours who have been subjected to one of the worst eyesore extensions I have ever come across.

“This rickety and tumbledown construction, made with odd bits of timber and other incongruous materials, looms over their gardens giving him an unfettered view right into their bedrooms. It is not an extension that any planning authority in the land could ever consent to.

“Mr Siharath could have realised his error, accepted he’d caused harm and visual intrusion to his neighbour’s properties some time ago and resolved this affair with much less fuss. Sadly he chose not to in the mistaken belief that the laws of the land did not apply to him.

“The judge and jury disagreed and now he has been presented with a big fine and the threat of a jail term if he doesn’t pay up.”

Cllr Humphries added: “If he doesn’t now remove this unwelcome monstrosity from his back garden the council will do the job and present him with another substantial bill.”